Former president of South Yemen calls for political solution to war
Former President of South Yemen Ali Nasir Muhammad has always managed to stand in his own space when discussing political issues and developments in Yemen. In an interview with The Arab Weekly, he insisted that he is still politically active and offered his perspective on the evolving Yemeni scene.
Muhammad said he agreed with the idea that the solution to the conflict in Yemen can only be political.
“The whole world is looking for a political solution to the war in Yemen,” he said. “We’ve had almost four years of war and the world has become convinced that a military solution is out of the question.
“If the war continues, its cost is going to be prohibitive for everybody, materially and in human lives. Its human, economic and social consequences are going to be dire for all Yemenis before anybody else.”
He said: “The entire world is aware of the horror of this war and how dangerous it will be if it continues. The world also knows that the warring parties are incapable of bringing a military end to the war. I’ve said it before that the winner of this war is going to be a loser. So, the option of a political and peaceful settlement to this destructive war is inescapable.”
Muhammad pointed out that even the Yemeni rivals were closer to accepting a negotiated solution. “All the parties in the war have become certain of the need for such a solution because they are convinced that a military victory of one or the other is impossible,” he said.
“At some point, it seemed that the round of negotiations in Kuwait between the legitimate government and the Houthis, which had lasted about 3 months, bore the hope for an end to the war through a political settlement acceptable to both parties but that hope was out of place because there were warmongers who did not wish for the war to end. These people have amassed fortunes from the war and they are still doing it at the cost of tremendous pains to the Yemeni people.”
Muhammad said the Geneva One talks after the Kuwaiti negotiations did not produce any solutions. “In reality, each party went to Geneva just to gain time and to prove that it was accepted by the international community as a legitimate party,” he said. “They didn’t go there to make concessions, or accept a solution or to make peace.”
The South Yemen Movement Al-Hirak was invited to the Geneva Three round but was dismissed. Muhammad said the cause of South Yemen was the cornerstone of any settlement in Yemen.
“In my opinion, it will not be possible to settle the crisis in Yemen without first finding a fair solution to the cause of South Yemen,” he said. “This is a given fact that cannot be ignored.
“Every passing day, the international community is more and more convinced of this fact. As proof, the UN special envoy has been meeting with all the parties in the South Yemen Movement and listening to their views. Eventually, they will have to be included in any negotiations for a final settlement.”
“Regarding the future of South Yemen Movement, there had been several attempts to rip it apart and scatter it. Al-Hirak, however, is a people’s movement with a wide popular base and cannot be contained into smaller structures no matter how many of these structures there are or whatever names they may bear. It’s the cause of one people, a fair cause that can’t be sidestepped… I’m still convinced, until further notice, that a federation between two states in Yemen is the best solution.”
Muhammad, asked about a possible conflict in Aden and whether that could be considered a continuation of the 1986 conflict in which he was a party, said: “That’s what they wish. South Yemen got over that crisis through reconciliation and forgiveness. We hope that it won’t happen again.
“There are forces that oppose the reconciliation in South Yemen. They feel it is a threat to their interests so they will try their best to provoke a conflict in South Yemen. That’s why they maliciously brought up the events of January 1986. We want to tell them: ‘Do not dream much. Find another needle to knit with. Our people are not blind to these dangers.’”
Muhammad said “there is no need for an official announcement or for the permission of anyone” when asked why he refused to officially participate in the political process in Yemen. “If what I’m doing isn’t political work, what is then?” he said.
Muhammad said the only outcomes in any war are victory and defeat. “When that becomes impossible, the solution is peace,” he said. “This is in a nutshell how I see it.”
“I’ve presented a proposal for a political solution in Yemen at the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow,” Muhammad said. “I’m still convinced that it can work but every initiative will have to be accepted locally, regionally and internationally.”
Muhammad had a message to the internal forces in Yemen summarising his view on how to end the human and economic crisis in the country: “This is the worst period in Yemen’s modern history… We now have in Yemen more than one president, more than one government and more than one army.
“In my opinion, to solve the crisis and rehabilitate the state, the war must stop. Otherwise, everybody will find it extremely hard to control Yemen.”