Briefing Upon Arrival in Yemen

Special Briefing
Sana'a, Yemen
January 11, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay, we’re in Yemen and we’re going to do a couple of things. We’re going first to see the president, and I will have a meeting with him and a lunch. Then – is the next thing the town hall or the –

STAFF: They’re not supposed to write about the town hall until we do it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, you can’t write about it till we do it. And then we will have a town hall and there will be a lot of members of civil society, and then I’ll go to the Embassy and meet with members of the opposition.

So we really have a two-part message. One, we are partnering with Yemen and other countries in the Gulf and beyond against the threat of terrorism, in particular al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen recognizes the threat that AQAP poses to it and has become increasingly committed to a broad-based counterterrorism strategy.

At the same time, we are committed to a balanced approach toward Yemen which includes social, economic, political assistance, of a type intended to try to deal with the many difficulties within Yemeni society to help create an inclusive political process that enables the many different elements within Yemen to cooperate peacefully within a unified, stable, democratic Yemen, help to deal with some of the long-term problems such as the declining oil production and the disappearing water supply.

And to that end we have rebalanced our aid package so that it is not so disproportionately consisting of the funding necessary on the counterterrorism agenda, but also includes these other priorities. The economic development of Yemen is something that is at the heart of the Friends of Yemen process which we’ve participated in. Some of you might remember I attended the meeting of the Friends of Yemen last winter, I guess a year ago.

STAFF: January.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, a year ago this month in London. At that time, the representatives of Yemen who were there – the prime minister, right?


SECRETARY CLINTON: And the foreign minister submitted a 10-point plan for Yemen’s development. It was actually a pretty good plan, and so we are – we have been working with others in the Gulf and Europe to try to help Yemen think through how to operationalize that plan. I’ll talk about that with the president.

The next Friends of Yemen will be sometime in the next couple of months. It’ll be hosted by Saudi Arabia and it will be included – including an idea of having a trust fund for Yemen, which the United States is committed to contribute to.

Now, there are a lot of issues that we’ll be discussing today, and I hope that some of you get a chance while maybe I’m in the meeting and the lunch to go out and look around Sana’a – which is supposedly a beautiful city, as somebody who has spent time here as well as Jeff; historic, ancient, lots of antiques and other crafts and art – and get a feel for it. Because there’s a lot that is very attractive about Yemen that would bring people here to visit, tourists. There’s a real opportunity for Yemen, and the challenge will be trying to help Yemen realize its own hopes for the kind of future that the people of Yemen deserve.

QUESTION: Could I ask you about the aid you gave – give to Yemen? I asked that question the other time, but perhaps I didn’t phrase it properly. You do give aid to Yemen and it is increasing, but when you take into consideration the amount – the number of problems they have, it doesn’t seem to be enough. And when you take into consideration aid you give to countries that are richer and better off, I mean, even like Lebanon. I mean, Lebanon gets almost as much aid as Yemen. It seems there’s something wrong there.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but remember we are one of a number of countries that are giving aid to Yemen. And I think you have to look at the entire aid package, because there are countries who have given an enormous amount of aid to Yemen, countries that are willing to increase their aid to Yemen if they believe that it will be effectively used. But I think probably if you looked across the board with all the Gulf countries and some of the European countries, it’s a very significant part.

Now, we are, to some extent, a late comer in terms of the amount of aid that we’re willing to commit to Yemen. It’s been primarily concerns of countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar. What’s the big European contributor?


SECRETARY CLINTON: UK. UK and Germany. So there are a lot of other countries that have a big – that have historically given aid to Yemen. The United States, we have a lot of global responsibilities that we are trying to manage in a time of increasing need and decreasing budgetary resources. So I think on balance we’re in the right place.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, what will be your message to President Saleh and to the opposition figures that you’re meeting regarding the political situation in Yemen and how they’re moving forward with constitutional reform?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there was a commitment to a national dialogue, and we want to see that dialogue continue. We want to see both the president and the opposition agree on how to hold parliamentary elections that will be fair and legitimate and inclusive. And we’ll be promoting that.

And with respect to constitutional reforms and legal changes, we want to be very clear that we think there are better ways, based on what we have experienced around the world in trying to get the opposition to buy into a unified future for Yemen, and that’s what we’re going to be advocating.

QUESTION: The term limits question – are you going to raise that with Saleh?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, we will. I’ll raise all of that with President Saleh.

STAFF: Thanks, guys.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

PRN: 2011/T37-06