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Nicholas Hopton

Head of UK Embassy to Libya

Part of UK in Yemen

1st March 2013 Tripoli, Libya

Friends of Yemen – and Lancaster House

I wrote in my introductory blog (a little tentative as I was learning how to manage the software) that I would offer some more personal views. However, I’d like to pick up first on the theme that I mentioned before, the Friends of Yemen meeting in London,  a week from now.

People often ask me what it is, and what it is supposed to achieve. It is quite true that it doesn’t have any formal constitution or terms of reference. Some already know that it predates the Arab Spring and Yemen’s own Youth Revolution by a year or so.

You’ll find some of the answers to questions like this on the Friends of Yemen background and Question and Answer pages on GOV.UK.

But it’s perhaps worth recalling that this group formed in response to an attempt by terrorists based in Yemen to blow up an aircraft flying through Europe to the US at the end of 2009.

It was a recognition by the international community not only that something had to be done, but also that Yemen could be brought back from the brink. After the start of the democratic risings in the Arab world the Friends of Yemen, now comprising about 40 nations and international organisations, became a political framework to support the GCC Initiative that led, in November 2011, to Ali Abdullah Saleh’s relinquishing of power as president.

Friends of Yemen now exists to support Yemen’s political transition by overseeing progress made in three broad areas – security, economy and political transformation. It looks at what the Yemeni government is doing to secure progress in these areas, and also at how the international community is delivering on its commitments of support.

This meeting next week is particularly significant as it marks a transition from promises to delivery, by both Yemen and its international supporters. I hope it will demonstrate how much real progress has been made.

The conference itself is taking place in Lancaster House, a large formal building in the centre of London that is often used for prestigious events.

It was first called York House when it was constructed almost 200 years ago for the “Grand Old Duke of York” for those who know their history – or their nursery rhymes. As I was born in Lancashire and brought up in Yorkshire I’m delighted with the venue on a personal level, given its close associations with both my place of birth and where I have lived since.

Inside its neo-classical exterior it  is a vast, palatial yellow cube (and must cost a fortune to heat) but it has a grandeur that somehow reflects many great events that have taken place there. I am hopeful that the Friends of Yemen will deliver outcomes worthy of this grand location.

About Nicholas Hopton

Nicholas Hopton is former UK Ambassador to Iran, Qatar and Yemen. Nicholas is a career diplomat who joined the FCO in 1989 having studied at St Peter’s School, York, and…

Nicholas Hopton is former UK Ambassador to Iran, Qatar and Yemen.

Nicholas is a career diplomat who joined the FCO in 1989 having
studied at St Peter’s School, York, and Cambridge University (Magdalene
College).  He has also studied at La Sapienza University in Rome and ENA in Paris.
With the FCO he has also served overseas in Paris, Rome, Morocco and Mauritania.
He is married with five children.