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Yemen projects on hold, ambassador says

Zhang Yunbi
Updated: Apr 10,2015 7:57 AM     China Daily

China’s ongoing cooperative programs in Yemen “have come to a halt” because of the turmoil in the Middle East country, China’s Ambassador to Yemen Tian Qi said on April 10.

Tian made the remark during a news conference in Beijing, saying the government will closely monitor the developing situation. Any further action will be based on the way the situation develops, Tian said.

Yemen has been devastated by a brutal civil war. The already dire situation became even more critical in late March when Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on Houthi rebels with the participation of other Gulf states.

Tian, who assumed his post as ambassador in January, was part of China’s first mission in Yemen to evacuate Chinese and foreign citizens. Tian previously served as a deputy chief of the Foreign Ministry’s information department.

Hu Yaowu, a commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Yemen, said the staff members of 12 Chinese enterprises in Yemen were rescued. “As the situation changed dramatically, our decision to evacuate was made quickly, and all the Chinese enterprises prepared well,” Hu said.

Punctuating the danger of the situation, a fierce firefight took place as Tian made his way to the ambassador’s residence after his arrival.

The embassy took 12 days to organize five groups of evacuees to make sure all 908 people-both from China and other countries-were safe, Tian told Xinhua News Agency on April 5.

Hu, the commercial counselor, said the evacuees included staff members of oil companies and Chinese foreign aid programs, as well as a Chinese medical team.

Because programs vary, it wasn’t possible “to make a detailed accounting of the total loss” to Chinese businesses operating in Yemen, Hu said.

Liu Yongxuan, the embassy’s military attache, said that during a conference in Beijing earlier this year that involved People’s Liberation Army staff working on military diplomacy, case studies for evacuations of Chinese citizens were made to boost awareness and sharpen emergency responses. Experts reviewed the previous three major evacuations-in Libya and Iraq. Liu said that experience “paved the way for the success” of the Yemen mission.

After the PLA navy vessels carried three groups of evacuees out of Yemen to neighboring Djibouti, the last of the diplomatic staff-including the ambassador-boarded the frigate Linyi along with the last group of Chinese nationals on April 6.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying announced later the same day that the Chinese embassy and consulate in Yemen “are temporarily closed” in light of the worsening security situation.