14 July, 2017

GCC IN REVIEW: 10 - 14 July

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Kingdom of Bahrain

Tuesday, 11 July— Bahrain Economic Development Board announced $10 billion worth of active development projects to enhance tourism in the Kingdom. Tourism plays a big role in Bahrain’s 2030 vision and contributes around 6.5% to the country’s GDP and is seen by Bahrain’s government as an important milestone to ensure successful economic diversification.

Wednesday, 12 July—Bahrain’s Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, declared how US and UK assistance greatly benefits the development justice and security in Bahrain amid regional instability.

Thursday, 13 July—US Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, received Bahrain’s Minister of Interior Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, in Washington. The visit reaffirms the long-standing friendship between the two countries and US commitment to back Bahrain’s efforts against Jihadi terrorism and Iranian regional interference. 

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Monday, 10 July—Saudi Arabia’s  Information Minister, Awwad Saleh al-Awwad, during his visit to Paris, announced that the Kingdom’s authorities found new evidence linking Qatar to twitter accounts inciting violence and a revolt in Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, 12 July—US  Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, met Saudi Arabia’s  King Salman and Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in Jeddah to discuss cooperation in combating terrorism and its financing. The Trump Administration has publicly endorsed the Saudi project of promoting terrorism prevention in countries across the Muslim world.

Thursday, 13 July—US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, met the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE in an attempt to ease tensions related to Qatar’s foreign policy. The four countries responded that the US-Qatari terrorism counter-financing accord was an inadequate response to the mounting evidence linking Qatar to terrorist and extremist organisations across the Middle East.

Thursday, 13 July—Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, received a telephone call from Turkey’s Minister of Defense, Fikri Isik. During the conversation, the Crown Prince and the Turkish Minister discussed bilateral relations with particular reference to sensitive issues related to the war in Syria and the GCC-Qatar Crisis.

Thursday, 13 July—Saudi Arabia’s security forces foiled an incursion by Houthi rebels attempting to cross the Saudi-Yemeni border in the Jizan province. The Shiite rebels planned to install short range missile launchers in Saudi territory to hit populated areas.

Thursday, 13 July—The London based Financial Conduct Authority has proposed creating a new category of premium listings specifically geared toward state-owned companies. This move is connected to Saudi Arabia’s decision to list 5% of Aramco. The London Stock Exchange is currently competing with Wall Street to list the Saudi oil giant.

State of Kuwait

Monday, 10 July—The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, received at the Bayan Palace, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. The Emir, while appreciating Tillerson’s positive comments regarding Kuwaiti efforts aimed at ending the intra-GCC diplomatic row, expressed concern for the increasing regional tensions and pessimism that the crisis may end in the short term. 

State of Qatar 

Tuesday, 11 July—Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, received US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The two signed an agreement aimed at countering terrorism financing. Qatar’s Foreign Minister declared that the signing of such agreement was not prompted by the diplomatic moves of fellow Arab countries. Tillerson stressed that his visit to the Gulf was in support of Kuwaiti mediation efforts to de-escalation regional tensions.  

Wednesday, 12 July—Living costs in Qatar have sharply risen in the context of the unfolding crisis. Food prices have doubled and airline tickets soared as it is now compulsory for travelers to leave to a third country in order to reach their destinations.

Friday, 14 July— Following the Jeddah summit with his Saudi, Egyptian, Bahraini and Emirati counterparts and having listened to their concerns regarding Qatar’s role as a regional promoter of instability, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, returned to Doha in an unscheduled trip for further discussions with Qatari authorities.  

Sultanate of Oman

Wednesday, 12 July—Omani media received high honours during the celebration of Arab Media Day in Cairo. The media of the Sultanate has been praised by delegates from other Arab countries for its ability to offer independent and balance news reports in a region shaken by instability and divisive conflicts. Oman’s media reflect the Sultanate diplomatic strategy based on non-interference and neutrality towards neighbouring countries. 

Friday, 14 July—Government-owned Oman Oil Company, is planning to set up an ammonia project that will be developed downstream of its existing methanol plant in Salalah Free Zone. This $750 million ammonia project has been possible due to the significant increase in Chinese investments in the Sultanate.

United Arab Emirates

Monday, 10 July—Government-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is considering an initial offering from the private sector for minority stakes in some related services businesses. The company also announced plans to combine two major offshore divisions to streamline its operations amid a sharp decrease in oil prices. This announcement and measures such as the Value Added Tax, signal how GCC governments are trying to progressively move away from state run oil-based economies.

Friday, 14 July— UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar al-Gargash, declared, following the Jeddah talks (on Thursday) with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, that the current diplomatic crisis is very far from a political solution. A political solution would necessarily entail a change in Qatar’s course, and in light of that not happening nothing can change. As such other Arab nations should look for a different format of relations with Doha.