Remarks at the Friends of Yemen Ministerial

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
London, United Kingdom
March 7, 2013

Good morning. More than sixty years ago, the founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization met in this very house to begin the difficult work of sustaining a hard-won peace. As British Foreign Secretary Bevin reminded his colleagues that day, “The business of building for peace … has to be worked for day in, day out, and we must never give up our faith in its ultimate triumph.”

The Friends of Yemen gather at Lancaster House today in the same spirit: fully aware of the challenges of fortifying peace but fully committed to partnering with the Yemeni people to realize its ultimate triumph. I want to thank Foreign Secretary Hague, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Madani, and Foreign Minister al-Qirbi for their countries’ steadfast and effective leadership of this forum.

Today, I would like to speak very briefly about how far we have come, the critical period we are now in, and the principles which must guide our way ahead.

Over the past 15 months, Yemen – with the support of all of its friends – has made important progress in implementing the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative. Yemenis elected a new leader for the first time in three decades, launched a major reform of their armed forces, regained control of large areas of their national territory held by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and today stand on the cusp of an historic National Dialogue.

We call on all Yemenis to seize this extraordinary opportunity to resolve their differences in a nonviolent way. Let us have no illusions: Dialogue is hard – it requires difficult and painful compromises. It requires us to sit down with enemies and to argue with friends. But the alternative of more bloodshed and destruction is far worse.

All of us know that political renewal alone will not suffice. It must be coupled with concrete steps on economic reform and development. The United States strongly backs Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organization and participation in the G-8 Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition. Together, these initiatives will integrate Yemen into regional and global markets, improve the business climate, accelerate economic activity, and secure a more prosperous and hopeful future for all Yemenis.

To succeed, all of us in the international community must also do some hard work, day in and day out, to support these efforts. For our part, the United States has doubled our foreign assistance to Yemen over the past year to $356 million, with over $10 million allocated specifically to support for the National Dialogue. Over the next year, we will work with the Mutual Accountability Framework secretariat to ensure that our assistance achieves results that tangibly improve the lives of all of Yemen’s citizens.

The transition is about to enter a new, critical, phase. While Yemenis courageously work to rebuild their country, extremists and their patrons are working hard to tear it down. The Co-Chairs called on all parties to commit to the principle of non-interference and the unity, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Yemen. This is an effort we endorse in the strongest terms.

Foreign Minister Qirbi, as you, President Hadi, and the Yemeni people continue to take courageous step after courageous step, the United States will be proud to stand by your side, a friend of Yemen, and a partner for peace.

Thank You.