Secretary of State Clinton’s Unannounced Visit to Yemen *UPDATED*
Secretary Clinton arrived in Yemen, an unannounced stop on her Persian Gulf tour. The trip had not been announced for security reasons:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday in a rare visit intended to strengthen U.S. ties with an impoverished country that is increasingly at the heart of U.S. efforts against al-Qaeda.
Clinton’s visit, which was kept under wraps as a security precaution, is the first by a U.S. secretary of state since a brief stop by then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III in 1990. The nine-hour visit was expected to include wide-ranging talks with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as meetings with opposition leaders and ordinary Yemeni citizens.
In brief remarks to reporters after arriving in Sanaa, Clinton said the Obama administration had “rebalanced” its aid package to Yemen, which last year jumped to $300 million in combined military and non-military support. Economic assistance this year will total more than $130 million, up from $16 million in 2008.
She praised the Saleh government for its cooperation in battling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula., an al-Qaeda offshoot.
“Yemen recognizes the threat that AQAP poses to it, and it has become increasingly committed to a broad-based counterterrorism strategy,” Clinton said.
Shortly before departing for Yemen, Clinton praised what she said was “increasingly, a very strong partnership” with the country’s leaders in fighting terrorism. But she said the Obama administration would seek a more comprehensive strategy to help Yemenis to overcome formidable problems that have made the region a magnet for arms-trafficking and extremist groups.
“It’s not enough to have military-to-military relations,” Clinton said. “We need to try to broaden the dialogue.”
The Secretary’s brief remarks with President Saleh:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me thank, on behalf of my entire delegation, the president for his very warm hospitality today. As I told the president, we are committed to a broad relationship between our two countries. We face a common threat posed by the terrorists and al-Qaida, but our partnership goes beyond counterterrorism. We are focused not just on short-term threats, but long-term challenges. Yemen has announced a number of reforms that we in the international community look forward to supporting in the economic, social, and political sectors. We support an inclusive political process that will, in turn, support a unified, prosperous, stable, democratic Yemen.
And above all, the United States is committed to the people of Yemen, Mr. President. We want this to be a relationship not just between leaders and governments, but between the people of Yemen and the people of the United States of America. Thank you again, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT SALEH: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.