Sweden’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ambassador Peter Semneby, constantly recalls old Swedish traditions centered on promoting conflict resolution and taking charge of humanitarian affairs. Sweden has highlighted these traditions in many conflicts around the world.
For example, Sweden has provided continuous support to Afghanistan for more than four decades, according to Semneby, who served three years as ambassador to the South Asian country.
In Yemen, Sweden has made an effective humanitarian and political contribution. He cooperated with the Yemeni government and civil society organizations as well as researchers, activists and experts.
“The focus is on the plight of people living in this country,” Semneby told Asharq Al-Awsat of Sweden’s concern over Yemen.
Semneby spoke with Asharq Al-Awsat during the Yemen International Forum 2022, an event organized by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies in cooperation with the Folke Bernadotte Academy.
Held June 17-19 in Stockholm, the Forum provided a platform for Yemenis to engage in in-depth conversations about the political situation, peace efforts and the economy.
Semneby pointed out that Swedish interaction in Yemen began with humanitarian participation.
“Alongside Switzerland, we organized five United Nations donor conferences for Yemen,” Semneby revealed, adding that Sweden then decided to complement its efforts for Yemen with actions supporting a peace solution.
The change in Swedish support resulted in the Stockholm Agreement in 2018.
However, the 2022 Yemen International Forum reflected deep divisions among Yemenis, with some welcoming the event and others, like the Southern Transitional Council (STC), abstaining from participating.
Asharq Al-Awsat investigated why the STC was not participating in the Forum and found that the Yemeni group strongly opposes the work of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.
“We sent a letter valuing Sweden’s role in producing peace in Yemen and the region, and we apologized for not participating in the Forum,” said STC spokesman Ali. Al-Kathiri, to Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We did not participate because of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies and its involvement in fueling the conflict and tearing apart the Yemeni social fabric,” Al-Kathiri said, accusing the center of bias. which goes against the cause of the people of the south. Yemen.
Al-Kathiri added that the STC had expressed concern and opposition to the Center’s work in a previous meeting with Semneby in March.
For her part, Rasha Jarhum, of the Peace Track Initiative (PTI), stresses the importance of creating common spaces for all Yemenis.
“The Stockholm Forum brought together more than 270 people, 36% of them women,” Jarhum noted, adding that the assembly discussed many issues on the peace agenda, including southern Yemen.
He also addressed the role of parties, minorities, women, tribes and victims in advancing the peace process.
In addition, the Forum discussed the challenges of combatant integration.
“The Forum provided a space for Yemeni, regional and international peacemakers to discuss and find future opportunities for cooperation,” Jarhum said.
“This space follows the holding of the Yemeni talks under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Riyadh talks), which brought together more than 500 people, 12% of whom were women,” Jarhum noted.
The Riyadh talks yielded results in six areas to strengthen stability and national cohesion.
“It has brought about a political transformation that has stirred up stagnant waters,” Jarhum said of Riyadh’s consultations.
“One of the most vital messages I shared at the Forum is the importance of supporting the transition stages by funding services and salaries, reparations and fighting corruption,” she noted. .
Tim Lenderking, US Special Envoy for Yemen, said the Forum was a great opportunity to meet Yemenis from across the country.
“While many Yemenis may disagree on certain tactical measures, every Yemeni here desires peace, and these moments must be seized. Yemen is on a much better path,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the Forum.
“However, it is a fragile path,” he added.
“If Yemenis work together and with the support of the international community, I truly believe that peace in Yemen can become a reality,” Lenderking noted.
On Sweden expanding its efforts to find a peaceful solution for Yemen, Semneby noted that his country is participating in regional consultations.
“We are also engaged in dialogue with regional actors,” Semneby said.
“Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde has made at least four trips to the region, and Yemen has been high on her agenda for the past four years,” the Swedish diplomat said, adding that Linde had visited. in Yemen twice.
“The political process is in the hands of the UN,” he said.
“If there is a desire from the UN and the parties, Sweden is ready to host further talks,” Semneby noted.
“But we also engage in conversations that are not part of any process; It might even be useful to the UN,” he explained.
Speaking about the benefits of the Forum, Semneby said, “Yemenis from a wide range of political parties and civil society organizations nationwide can meet in an informal setting to discuss the most pressing issues facing their country is facing”.
He added that the Forum also helps Yemenis come up with long-term visions for the war-torn country.
“I hope those who were invited to Stockholm and did not attend the Forum will reflect on this meeting and the new ideas that have emerged,” Semneby said.
“Hopefully going forward, they will conclude that there is nothing to lose by participating, and there is a lot to gain,” he added.