Yemen and Libya: Save Society, Restore the State

28.02.2017

The Session 4, titled "Yemen and Libya: Save society, restore the state," finished the first working day of the Valdai Discussion Club conference “The Middle East: When Will Tomorrow Come?”, organized in partnership with the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. The participants discussed not only ways to reconstruct the states in crisis, but also the roles that regional and external actors could play in this process. The discussion was moderated by Vasily Kuznetsov, Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Ali Nasser Mohamed, President of South Yemen (1980-1986), said that a military solution of the conflict in Yemen was unacceptable. The only possible way is a peaceful political settlement with international assistance. The first step should be a complete cease-fire and surrender of weapons by all factions to the Ministry of Defense. Special political and military commissions could become observers in this process. The conflicting parties should establish an inclusive national unity government with representatives of the warring parties. The government will organize democratic elections to elect the head of a new federal state. The mandatory condition is the presence of vice-presidents representing North and South Yemen. The panelists offered options for a future Yemeni state following the example of the United Arab Emirates or Ethiopia.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for Yemen, found parallels between Libya and Yemen, noting that in spite of rich historical potential the two countries suffer from a deficiency of democratic values and lack of governance. Two other fundamental problems are youth unemployment and social inequality. Both countries are highly dependent on humanitarian aid (21 million inhabitants of Yemen and 18.8 million inhabitants of Libya), and suffer from the total collapse of the health system. To create a new steady regime, the UN special envoy recommends to rely on the remaining state institutions. According to Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the decision about the type of government in the country should be taken by the citizens of Yemen on the basis of a referendum or other chosen democratic procedures.

Said Ferjani, Member of the political bureau, Ennahdha Party (Tunisia), urged to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Libya and Yemen, saying that disintegration of these countries would be a big mistake having far-reaching consequences not only for the region but for the entire world. It would increase the number of refugees, and the situation would continue to worsen. According to Ferjani, the most promising solution of the crisis in Libya would be trilateral cooperation between Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia.

Na’eem Jeenah, Executive director, Afro-Middle East Centre, South Africa, agreed with Ferjani's statement regarding high expectations from the trilateral cooperation between regional players to resolve the instability in Libya. According to Na’eem Jeenah, the main role of external players, including Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, is to maintain and promote trilateral cooperation without direct intervention in the affairs of the region.

Other experts did not agree with his opinion, calling for the support of the international community to end the military standoff, including the convocation of a summit with participation of foreign and regional players. The goal of the summit will be the development of roadmaps to resolve instability in the region.

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