Yemen is on the brink of collapse and must be saved before it is "too late", International Development Minister Alan Duncan warned today.
Calling for the international community to step up its support for development in the failing Arab state, he insisted that the next few months could prove pivotal to its future.
A gathering in Riyadh next February was possibly "the last chance" to turn things around in Yemen, Mr Duncan said.
He warned that the country was at risk of sliding into "chaos", allowing al Qaida to flourish and present a security threat to the rest of the world.
In a speech to Chatham House in London, Mr Duncan said the cargo plane bomb plot demonstrated the need to tackle Yemen's problems on an international level.
"The lesson from other countries is that if we sit around and analyse a country on the edge of collapse for too long, by the time we decide to do anything about it, it's already too late," he said.
"That may be just where we are heading with Yemen."
Mr Duncan said Yemen was "high" on the coalition Government's agenda and of particular interest to the National Security Council.
"Yemen in collapse could lead to a litany of chaos - no water, no energy, no food, civil strife, al Qaida flourishing, increasing radicalisation, and a regional and international threat both to world energy supplies and to many nations' security," he said.
But he called for the international community to help tackle problems like poverty, disease and lack of education rather than wielding "a big stick".
"There are two ways Yemen's problems could be approached," he said.
"We can either address the underlying causes of poverty, grievance, joblessness and governance, or the international community could begin to start shouting and wave a big stick.
"For us in the coalition Government and (the Department for International Development), we are going to put development at the heart of an integrated approach for Yemen."
A ministerial meeting of the Friends of Yemen in the capital of neighbouring Saudi Arabia had the potential to be "a major turning point" for the country, he said.
"We don't have long. The next Friends of Yemen meeting in Riyadh is in February, only a few months away," he said.
"More than any other meeting before it, the Friends of Yemen meeting in Riyadh is possibly both a golden opportunity and the last chance there will be to address Yemen's problems before it is too late."
Mr Duncan added: "The next two months in the run-up to Riyadh are crucial, and the rhetoric we've all been hearing must now become reality."Reuse content