GCC IN REVIEW: 7 – 11 January 2018

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A Weekly Publication of the main news surrounding the GCC States

Kingdom of Bahrain

Monday, 8 January—Bahrain’s Parliament called on the government to reverse its decision on increasing gasoline prices. Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority increased the prices to bring them closer to international levels. Gasoline prices in the Kingdom will remain among the lowest in the world per litre. 

Tuesday, 9 January—The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to France, Italy and the Vatican State, Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar, was received by Pope Francis in Vatican City. During the meeting, the Ambassador viewed the distinguished relations between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Holy See. Both parties hailed the progress of bilateral relations and the continued cooperation on issues of religious tolerance. This visit took place after the October 2017 official declaration in which Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, called for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the world.

Wednesday, 10 January—Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, praised Saudi Arabia for being the umbrella of stability across the Muslim world in difficult times, and for defending its GCC allies. 

State of Kuwait

Monday, 8 January—Kuwait’s Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, stressed the need of cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to face growing regional threats. Kuwait’s Emir has been leading mediation efforts since Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar which stands accused of supporting extremists and funding terrorism. 

Thursday, 11 January—Kuwait’s Ambassador to Switzerland and Envoy to the Vatican, Badr Al-Tunaib, met with Pope Francis in Vatican City. During the meeting, the Pope praised the role that Kuwait’s Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, plays in promoting peace and dialogue among nations. Kuwait has been recently leading efforts to contain rising tensions in the Arab Gulf region.

Sultanate of Oman

Tuesday, 9 January—Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said, received the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Sultanate, Envarbik Fazelianov. The meeting covered means of enhancing aspects of bilateral relations and reviewed recent International developments such as the continuation of intense fighting in Syria and in neighbouring Yemen. 

Wednesday, 10 January—Oman’s Ministry of Oil and Gas signed an exploration and production sharing agreement with Lebanon’s state oil company Petroleb. The $24 million initial investment by the Lebanese firm involves a three year exploration over 2,262 square kilometres in the south of Oman.

State of Qatar 

Sunday, 7 January—Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, travelled to Pretoria to meet with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. Doha is increasingly pushing to boost relations with African and European countries following the start of the boycott imposed by the countries of the Anti-Terror Quartet. 

Wednesday, 10 January—Iran's Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, invited Qatar’s Parliament Speaker, Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud, to attend the 13th summit of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Parliament speakers to be held in Tehran on January 17-18.  Al-Mahmoud was the only GCC speaker officially invited to the Iran-organised event, signalling a deepening Tehran-Doha relationship. 

Thursday, 11 January—Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lulwah Al-Khater, announced Doha’s move to seek international arbitration to end the boycott imposed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. The four countries accuse Doha of supporting international terrorism. Al-Khater declared that Qatar intends to use all options available to end the boycott. Qatar has not yet agreed to any of the demands articulated by the boycotting countries. 

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Sunday, 7 January—Two Saudi pilots of the Arab Coalition fighting to restore legitimacy in Yemen have been evacuated to Saudi territory from an operations area after their jet crashed, due to a technical failure, in Yemen’s Saada province.

Monday, 8 January—Saudi Arabia imposed a travel ban on 17 relatives of the powerful and controversial, scholar, Salman Al-Awda, a prominent member of the Islamic Awakening Movement. The scholar, arrested in September 2017, is accused of extremist preaching. Al-Awda is also well known for strongly criticising Saudi Arabia’s government decision to severe relations with Doha.

Monday, 8 January—Air Strikes from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen enabled Yemen’s UN-legitimised government’s troops to recapture the Umm Al-Athem mountain range in the province Saada, near the Saudi border. The mountainous region was often used by Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a logistical base to attack Saudi border posts. 

Wednesday, 10 January—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, during a phone call with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, reaffirmed the Kingdom's firm position on the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. 

Thursday, 11 January—Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco invited several banks-pitching for roles in its stock market listing-including Citi Bank and Goldman Sachs, for talks in the Kingdom. The meetings are an indication that preparations for the 2018 initial public offering (IPO), which could be the biggest IPO in history, are progressing despite market speculation that it could be delayed.

United Arab Emirates

Tuesday, 9 January—The UAE’s Central Bank announced that the growth of the United Arab Emirates’ gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to accelerate to 3.9 % in 2018. The growth is related to the positive outcome of government investment into infrastructure projects and to the growth in foreign trade, which particularly benefits Dubai.

Thursday, 11 January—The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affaris, Anwar Gargash, declared that “Qatari claims about the Gulf crisis are a combination of lies, lack of vision and unfounded denials.” The UAE Minister spoke in response to Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who recently accused the UAE of launching a media campaign against Qatar in 2017 as a means to build pressure to back-up its demands from Doha.

By Antonino Occhiuto