'Friends of Yemen' group urges faster aid
International donors must speed up aid to impoverished Yemen to help it complete its delicate political transition and fight Al-Qaeda, ministers warned at a meeting of the "Friends of Yemen" group in London Thursday.
The grouping of more than 35 countries and international organisations pledged $7.9 billion (6.06 billion euros) of aid to Yemen in 2012, but little of the funding has been distributed so far.
"Yemen is now at a very important and dangerous crossroads," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told a joint press conference with his British and Saudi counterparts, who co-chaired the London meeting.
"Perhaps Yemen has moved away from the abyss but it is still facing many political, economic and social challenges," he said, speaking through a translator.
Yemen was rocked in 2011 by an uprising that left the already stricken country's economy in tatters and weakened the government's control over several areas, especially across the south and east, where it is battling Al-Qaeda militants.
Yemen is now in a political transition process led by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
The World Bank said on Thursday that apart from aid from Saudi Arabia, only $500 million of funding pledged by the Friends of Yemen has been disbursed to date.
Saudi Arabia has deposited $1 billion in Yemen's central bank to shore up its currency while the two governments have agreed 14 investment projects worth $1.3 billion.
"But the progress on the disbursements from other donors on the promised project level funds remain slow," the World Bank's vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa, Inger Anderson, said in a draft statement on the latest Friends of Yemen meeting.
Yemen is due to begin a much-anticipated national dialogue on March 18 to push forward the transition following the fall of Yemen's strongman leader Abdullah Ali Saleh.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the forthcoming dialogue -- which will pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 -- and stressed that it must give a voice to women, civil society groups and southern Yemenis pushing for secession.
"The national dialogue conference must allow the Yemeni people, through their representatives, to decide for themselves the future of their nation," Hague told the news conference.
© 2013 AFP