An interview with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the recent escalation of the situation in Yemen, published in the daily BILD on 27 March 2015.
Minister, the Saudi air force is bombing the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and Riyadh is threatening to invade its neighbouring country. Are we in for a new major war in the Arab world?
I hope not – but the situation is dangerous.
What does that mean for Yemen and the Gulf region?
Entrenched social conflicts, extreme poverty and tribal warriors armed to the teeth, rival political power centres and Islamist terror groups – that’s a dangerous mix, with ramifications far beyond Yemen’s borders. All those problems cannot be contained, let alone resolved, by violent means, neither from within nor from outside. What we need now is dialogue and negotiations. Last year, all sides to the conflict concluded a peace agreement under the auspices of the United Nations. The Houthi rebels have since broken all arrangements. They are displaying utter ruthlessness and reject every political solution.
Does Germany support Riyadh’s approach?
Yemen’s democratic government has been driven from the capital, Sana’a, by the Houthi rebels and is now being attacked in Aden. President Hadi has therefore asked neighbouring Saudi Arabia for help against this acute threat. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia carried out air strikes against Houthi positions with support from the region. Against this background, I can understand Saudi Arabia’s actions.
It seems that Iran backs the Houthi rebels...
Such links do exist. How close they are is anybody’s guess, however. No one can have an interest in any further escalation, let alone a Saudi‑Iranian proxy war in Yemen, not even Riyadh or Tehran. One shudders to think of the consequences of such a confrontation, not just for the region as a whole but for global energy supplies. I don’t believe the stakeholders can have any interest in such a scenario.
Can this situation jeopardise the upcoming negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme?
I hope not, and in any case we must stop that from happening. So far, we have been able to shield the negotiations from the region’s crises. I hope we will be able to continue to do so. So much is at stake! For the first time in more than a decade, a comprehensive agreement is within reach. We want a durable, reliable and verifiable agreement that prevents Iran getting its hands on a nuclear weapon.
This Interview was conducted by Rolf Kleine and reproduced with kind permission of BILD.