Remarks With Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi After Their Meeting

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Department Spokesman
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 21, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. I am pleased to welcome the foreign minister to the State Department today. We’ve had a very open and productive conversation about a number of important issues. Our two nations are working together as partners to improve Yemen’s capacity to deliver vital services, control its borders, conduct effective counterterrorist activities, improve services to the people of Yemen.

We face a common threat from those violent extremists who target civilians without mercy or remorse. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has killed dozens of Yemenis in recent years, including seven soldiers who died guarding the United States Embassy during an attack by suicide bombers on September 17th, 2008. We have seen al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula kill tourists in Yemen, Yemeni security officers, and being involved in the training and equipping of the perpetrator on the attempted Christmas Day airline bomber.

Now, to combat this growing threat, the United States will intensify its cooperation with Yemen on both security and development. We will work with other partners and like-minded countries. Yemen has demonstrated a willingness and a capacity to take action against al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and the United States commends these actions.

We also discussed how we could deal more effectively with the internal stresses inside Yemen. These are matters for Yemen to resolve through dialogue and political cooperation, but we along with others will stand ready to assist. We will gather in London next week to discuss these efforts at a conference called for this occasion.

I am pleased to note that USAID recently signed a three-year umbrella assistance agreement with the Government of Yemen which we hope will amount to the delivery of $121 million in development and economic assistance to the country. However, the success of this investment depends upon Yemen’s ability to make the tough choices necessary to improve the capacity to govern, to reform its economy, to protect human rights, to combat corruption, and create a better environment for business and investment.

So again, let me thank the foreign minister for this visit and to pledge our cooperation in the years ahead on behalf of Yemen.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-QIRBI: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, and thank you for this opportunity to meet and to address many of the challenges faced by Yemen and how we can see that the relation between our two countries moves forward.

I am very pleased and glad to say that with the new Administration, we have seen a greater understanding to the challenges faced by Yemen and the willingness to help Yemen. And with President Barack Obama and Your Excellency, I am sure that you will achieve our objectives of seeing a stable, united Yemen and a strong Yemen.

Yemen has stressed a number of issues in this meeting – first of all, our commitment to continue the fight against terrorism and against radicalization, the other important challenge in our part of the world, that our fight against terrorism has an important component to it, which is now clearly understood, and that is the development. And Yemen has, in its development program over the last few years, had undertaken rather courageous decisions on reforms. And the lack of achievement is due to the fact that Yemen did not have the resources to implement these reforms.

I am glad that with this sort of support we are getting from the United States, it will make it easier for us to move forward, and we hope that the London conference will come to strengthen our capabilities in implementing a lot of the reforms and the – achieving the economic growth. I am here again to stress that we will continue to work with the U.S. Administration and with our partners on development, and will hope we will see further improvement of the relation between our two countries.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-QIRBI: Thank you very much.

MR. CROWLEY: The first question from CNN, Elise.

QUESTION: Thank you. A question for both of you about the upcoming meeting next week: Madame Secretary, you’ve said in recent weeks that the U.S. is eager to help Yemen, but that there would be kind of conditions or expectations placed on that. What kind of conditions and expectations are you looking for?

And Mr. Minister, you’ve said today and in the past that Yemen didn’t have the resources that it needed to institute some of the reforms in counterterrorism and development that it wanted to do. What makes you think that this time, you could be assured that the international community will help you implement and that you can count on this type of assistance?

And I was wondering, for both of you, if you had spoken about the fact that over the last few years, the U.S. has been concerned that some people on the FBI most wanted list have been in Yemen and have not been apprehended. Madame Secretary, did you bring this up? And Mr. Minister, did you give assurances that all wanted terrorist suspects would be taken care of? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, let me start by saying that as the minister said, we have worked hard this past year to develop a constructive and positive relationship with Yemen around both security and development. I can’t speak to what has gone on prior to that, but we believe strongly that we’ve seen from the Government of Yemen a very active and effective commitment to combat the radical extremists, particularly al-Qaida, in the Arabian Peninsula in the last months. That is, from our perspective, a very positive sign that we are building on.

There is also an awareness on the part of both the United States and Yemen that our relationship cannot be just about the terrorists. As critical as that is to our security and our future and to the stability and unity of Yemen, the best way to really get at some of these underlying problems that exist is through an effective development strategy. President Salih has a 10-point economic plan, and we have made clear that we have expectations and we have the right to work with the Government of Yemen as we do provide development because we want it to go for the benefit of the people of Yemen. We want to see results on the ground. We’re seeing results in the counterterrorism efforts and we want to see similar results when it comes to development.

But I believe that the foreign minister and other high officials in Yemen understand that. They’re committed to this new course and we want to assist them in being successful.


Let me answer your first part of the question. We believe that donors who have committed billions of dollars in 2006 in the London donors conference have realized now that delay in implementation – and the delay in implementation is not the fault of the Yemeni Government. It is actually the mechanism by which different funds in the GCC countries and others dispense these funds. So it is a bureaucratic problem as well as one of technical aspects to it.

The lost time over the last three years, I think, got Yemen to what it is now, the economic situation that we are facing. So I hope the London conference will address these issues in order to avoid repeating this mistake that happened in the past. We feel that donors realize the importance of the stability of Yemen and its unity, and this is what we bank on in London conference this time is that there will be a serious look at the needs of Yemen for development and it will be addressed. And then we can look at the processes after that.

Regarding the terrorists who are in Yemen, I can assure you that those who are in the hands of the government are apprehended and some of them have been prosecuted. Of course, there are some who are at large and these are being pursued by our security forces.

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary --


QUESTION: You called it a common threat. What are the exact steps that you required the Yemen Government to take to make sure that this threat is not really threatening them and us and here?

And Mr. Foreign Minister, it seems that there is a very high sensitivity to talk about foot soldiers of America and Yemen. Why do we have this very high sensitivity to this issue, and what do you really need from Washington?


FOREIGN MINISTER AL-QIRBI: Well, I think the sensitivity is not only in Yemen; it’s also in the United States. There are people in the United States who believe that the fight against the terrorists should be undertaken by the countries themselves and not by American soldiers. And I think this is the right policy if you look at it from the experience in the past. What we need is really to build the capabilities of our counterterrorism units, make them more effective, train them, provide them with the equipment, and they will do the job. And this will be to the benefit of both countries with less problems and less cost.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And we agree with that. I mean, that is what we are committed to doing, working with the Yemeni Government, assisting them, providing them the support that they seek to defend their own country, to prevent outside forces, inside secessionists, other elements that are threatening the stability and the unity of the Government of Yemen. You know very well that the Houthis attacked Saudi Arabia back in November.

So this is a conflict that has ramifications beyond the borders of Yemen, but it must be solved within the borders of Yemen.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-QIRBI: Thank you very much.

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PRN: 2010/087