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Friends of Yemen


London, 7.3.2013 - Statement by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter on the occasion of the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the «Friends of Yemen» - Check against delivery

Mr. Chairman
Mr. Secretary General, Honourable Ministers,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Switzerland welcomes the holding of the fifth Friends of Yemen ministerial meeting today in London. It is for the first time that Switzerland participates as a member of the Friends of Yemen. We have been eager to join this group to underline our support for the historic transition that your country, Foreign Minister Al-Qirbi, is currently undergoing. It is a strategic priority of Switzerland to contribute to peace, security, stability, and democratic change in Europe’s neighbouring regions.

I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of the United Kingdom for organising this important gathering and for kindly inviting Switzerland to participate.

I would also like to commend the government of Yemen for the significant progress that has already been achieved since the signing of the Gulf Co-operation Council-led political transition agreement in November 2011.

Recent events in Yemen have illustrated once more the urgent need for genuine and sustainable inter-Yemeni reconciliation. The National Dialogue Conference will be of key importance in this regard. The reconciliation process should address all core issues without preconditions and be as inclusive as possible, based on an equal partnership between all parties involved. We encourage the Government of Yemen to adopt meaningful transitional justice legislation. Sustainable reconciliation will only be possible if steps are taken to heal old wounds, address past abuses, and prosecute those that bear responsibility. Victims have a right to the truth and to justice and need guarantees against the recurrence of discrimination and injustices.

Switzerland wishes to emphasize its strong commitment and readiness to work with both the Government of Yemen and the UN Special Adviser Jamal Ben Omar to foster this national dialogue. As a nation with different cultures and languages, the Swiss are essentially tied together by political will. Our political system is based on federalism and direct democracy. Power-sharing arrangements ensure that all our communities have a stake in the national well-being. The Swiss government is willing to share its experience and know-how in this field if that is of interest to the Government of Yemen.

Mr. Chairman, dear colleagues

It is decisive that the necessary political reforms are accompanied by sustainable economic and social recovery. In this regard, access to water will be one of the key issues for the future of Yemen. Water scarcity is often at the very bottom of local tensions, of environmental degradation, of diseases, of hunger and poverty. In Yemen and many other places, the water challenge is bound to mount as a result of climate change and population growth. Switzerland is very much engaged in bringing water and security to the UN global agenda, 2013 being the International Year of Water Cooperation. In Yemen, we are currently engaged in some first water-related projects, and we are willing to expand our cooperation on this issue if so requested by the Government of Yemen.

Switzerland is also determined to stand alongside Yemen in its efforts to meet the humanitarian challenges. Addressing the needs of protection and providing basic services to the most vulnerable groups – in particular refugees, migrants, internally displaced and war-affected persons –, are the most pressing tasks. It is with this in mind that Switzerland has allocated 21.5 Mio US$ for the period 2012-2014 to support Yemen in its socio-economic development and to back the reform process.

Mr. Chairman, dear colleagues

Let me reiterate the firm commitment of Switzerland to work closely with Yemen and its international partners for meaningful reforms and a successful democratic transition. In this spirit, we are looking forward to actively contributing to the goals and efforts of the Friends of Yemen.

Thank you.

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
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