The Euro-Gulf Monitor
26 May - 1 June 2023
by Veronica Stigliani & Elen'Alba Vitiello
5 Top Points
Oman’s Sultan travelled to Iran for an official visit.
The UAE introduced a 9% business tax.
The GCC and EU discussed developments in the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea, and Sudan.
Bahrain’s APM Terminals’ €9 million solar power project will make Khalifa Bin Salman Port the region’s first seaport to be fully powered by renewable energy.
Kuwait’s military delegation visited NATO’s CBRN Centre in the Czech Republic.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Thursday, 1 June–Bahrain’s leading telecom and technology powerhouse company, Beyon, launched the first data centre in the country fully powered by clean energy generated by the company’s solar park. This is in line with Bahrain’s vision to achieve zero carbon neutrality by 2026, announced at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 held in Glasgow Scotland.
Wednesday, 31 May—Bahrain’s port company, APM Terminals, launched a $10 million (about €9 million) solar power project, using 20,000 solar photovoltaic panels, which will make Khalifa Bin Salman Port the region’s first seaport to be fully powered by renewable energy by the end of 2023.
State of Kuwait
Wednesday, 31 May—Kuwait plans to introduce an online platform that will assess incoming foreign workers’ professional skills in a bid to regulate their numbers and prioritise private sector employment opportunities for young Kuwaitis. This comes with Kuwait’s Cabinet decision to form a committee tasked to create more job opportunities for Kuwaiti nationals in the private sector.
Sultanate of Oman
Friday, 26 May—Oman facilitated a prisoner swap between Belgium and Iran. Belgian aid worker, Olivier Vandecasteele, sentenced to 40 years imprisonment on espionage charges, and Iranian diplomat, Assadolah Assadi,who was serving a 20-year jail sentence in Brussels over terror charges, were transferred to Oman before returning to their home countries. The next day, Oman’s Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, held a phone call with the King of Belgium, Philip Leopold, who expressed his appreciation for Oman’s efforts to reach a settlement between Iran and Belgium on the prisoner swap.
Wednesday, 31 May—Oman’s Sultan inaugurated the Sultan Haitham City project, a 15 km2 futuristic smart city, which will house around 100,000 residents.
State of Qatar
Sunday, 28 May–On the sidelines of the Qatar Economic Forum 2023, Qatar’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Serbian Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, aimed at enhancing cooperation in the technology field.
Wednesday, 31 May–Qatar Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, held talks with the supreme leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhunzada, on 12 May in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to resolve tensions with the international community, and to raise the need to end the Taliban bans on girl’s education and women’s employment. United States President Joe Biden’s administration was briefed on the talks and coordinated on all issues discussed.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 28 May–Saudi Arabia and the US urged both Sudanese parties to agree to an extension of the ceasefire, noting that there have been violations by both parties that impeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services in the five days after the entry into force of the short-term ceasefire.
Monday, 29 May—During the Saudi Special Zones Investment Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia issued licenses for four new Special Economic Zones (SEZs) located in Riyadh, Jazan, Ras Al-Khair and King Abdullah Economic City. The news SEZs have already attracted $12.6 billion (about €11 million) from investors across maritime, mining, manufacturing and logistics, and tech, and additional $31 billion (about €29 billion) in investment proposals, creating new value chains in the country.
United Arab Emirates
Wednesday, 31 May—During the “Make it in the Emirates Forum” in Abu Dhabi, UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Ahmed Al-Jaber, announced industrial projects for sustainable growth, worth $1.63 billion (about €1.5 billion), including the first hydrogen electrolyser plant.
Thursday, 1 June—UAE’s government introduced a 9% business tax to gradually erode the UAE’s tax-free status, combat tax avoidance and boost the country’s non-oil revenues. The business tax, with relief for small firms and exemptions for export free-zone activities, comes following the introduction of 5% value added tax (VAT) in 2018.
Monday, 29 May–The UAE unveiled a plan to send a spaceship to explore the solar system’s main asteroid belt, in a bid to develop a spacecraft in the coming years and then launch it in 2028 to study various asteroids.
Monday, 29 May–The European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, met with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General, Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi, in Riyadh, to discuss the GCC-EU cooperation in peace, security, climate and food security as well as the political and security developments in the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea, and Sudan.
Tuesday, 30 May–Kuwaiti Assistant Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Sadeq Maraafi, visited Brussels, as part of his European tour. He held meetings with the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department of the European External Action Service, Helen Le Gall, and the Special Advisor for Foreign Policy to the President of the European Council, Simone Mordue, to discuss bilateral cooperation and regional and international issues of common interest, in addition to preparations for future official visits.
Wednesday, 31 May–Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the European Union, Haifa Al-Jedea, held a meeting with the European Commission’s Director General of Energy for Europe, Ditte Juul Jorgensen, to enhance the EU-Saudi Arabian cooperation in renewables and energy security.
Key Official Visits
Sunday, 28 May–During his two-day state visit to Iran, Oman’s Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, met with Iran'sSupreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and President, Ebrahim Raisi, to explore ways to expand cooperation. Sultan Haitham was accompanied by a high-level government delegation, including the Head of the Armed Forces, Vice Admiral Abdullah bin Khamis Raisi. On the occasion, Oman and Iran signed two memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and two cooperation agreements. The MoUs aim to promote investments, exchange investment opportunities and boost development and investment in economic zones and free zones. The two agreements focus on exchanging oil information and a joint study on the Hengam-Bakha field project.
Sunday, 28 May–Pope Francis received the Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General and Chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, in the Vatican City. They discussed topics related to shared values, promoting communication among cultures and renouncing any form of hatred and racism.
Sunday, 28 May–A UAE high-level delegation visited the Czech Republic to discuss ways to expand relations in trade and investments. The delegation was chaired by the Minister of State Ahmed Ali Al-Sayegh, and included the Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs, Saeed Mubarak Al Hajri, and the President of the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Abdullah Al-Mazrouei.
Sunday, 28 May—Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar Al-Khorayef and the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, signed an agreement to jointly develop resilient critical minerals supply chains in support of global energy transition.
Monday, 29 May–Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, received a telephone call from his British counterpart, James Cleverly, to review Saudi Arabia's efforts to reach a political solution in Sudan. During the phone call, they also explored ways to enhance relations between Saudi Arabia and the UK.
Tuesday, 30 May—Oman’s parliamentary delegation, led by Said bin Mubarak Al-Muharrami, Head of the Oman-Belarus Friendship Group, met with Belarusian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yevgeny Shestakov, in Minsk. They discussed ways to intensify political, trade and economic cooperation through a legal framework, and to expand international organisations’ contacts.
Tuesday, 30 May—Manama hosted the 6th round of political consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Bahrain and India, with a focus on bilateral cooperation political, commercial investment, scientific and security fields. It waschaired by Bahrain’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, the, and Ausaf Sayeed, Undersecretary for Consular Affairs, Passports, Visas and Overseas Expatriates Affairs of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
Tuesday, 30 May–Oman’s Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry for Political Affairs, Khalifa Ali Al-Harthy, receivedthe Undersecretary of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Carmen Moreno Toscano, and the Mexican Deputy of Finance and Public Credit, Gabriel Yorio, in Muscat. The meeting discussed aspects of bilateral cooperation in various fields, including trade and commerce.
Tuesday, 30 May–Kuwait’s military and security delegation visited NATO’s Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Centre of Excellence facility in the Czech Republic and the Czech Defence Ministry to enhance defence and security cooperation.
Wednesday, 31 May—UAE and Iran discussed cooperation to achieve and promote regional stability during an official visit by the UAE’s Minister of State and Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, to Tehran, where he met with several Iranian officials, notably Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian; Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Ali Bagheri Kani; and Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy, Mahdi Safari.
Wednesday, 31 May—Oman and Switzerland held political consultations in Muscat. The Omani side was led by Khalifa Alharthy, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Political Affairs, while the Swiss side was led by Ambassador Maya Tissafi, head of the Middle East and North Africa Division of the Swiss Federal Foreign Ministry.
Wednesday, 31 May–Qatar’s Special Envoy for Counter-Terrorism, Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, held meetings in Washington with US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Peninsula Affairs, Daniel Benaim, and Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh (ISIS), Ian McCary. This comes within the context of Qatar’s efforts to serve as a diplomatic bridge between the Taliban-led Afghanistan and the international community.
Thursday, 1 June—Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, participated in BRICS Friends Ministerial Meeting in South Africa, held under the theme ‘Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism.’