The Euro-Gulf Monitor
10 - 16 March 2023
by Veronica Stigliani & Elen'Alba Vitiello
5 Top Points
Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies during talks in Beijing.
Bahrain is hosting the 146th meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Kuwait and Iran discussed maritime borders demarcation in Tehran.
Qatar hosts the five-day Military Strategic Partnership Conference in cooperation with NATO.
Saudi Arabia and Cyprus discussed investment opportunities.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Saturday, 11 March–Between 11-15 March, Manama hosted the 146th meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which includes 178 member parliaments and 14 associate members, under the topic ‘Promoting Peaceful Coexistence and Inclusive Societies: Fighting Intolerance.’ During one of the accompanying events, the Forum of Women Parliamentarians, Bahraini legislator and Shura Council First Deputy Chairman, Jamal Mohammed Fakhro, highlighted Bahrain’s role in promoting gender equity through legislation, noting that Bahraini women represent 20% of the Council of Representatives and 25% of the Shura Council.
State of Kuwait
Monday, 13 March–The Kuwait-Iran Joint Legal Committee discussed the demarcation of maritime borders through international law in Tehran. It was chaired by Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Mansour Al-Otaibi, and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs, Reza Najafi.
Sultanate of Oman
Tuesday, 14 March−Oman’s hydrogen company, Hydrom, signed six term-sheet agreements worth more than 20 billion Omanirials (about €49 billion) with a number of international developers to invest in green hydrogen projects in the country. The accordswere signed with developers from Belgium, Germany, India, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The production capacity of these projects reaches 15 gigawatts of electricity, built on an area of approximately 1,500 square kilometres.
State of Qatar
Monday, 13 March–Qatar hosted the five-day Military Strategic Partnership Conference in cooperation with NATO aimed at enhancing Qatar’s role as a strategic ally and strengthening cooperation between NATO and partner countries. The main topics included maritime security, enhancing defence capabilities partnerships in energy security, cooperation, and cybersecurity. The Chief of Staff of Qatar’s Armed Forces, Staff Lieutenant General (Pilot) Salem bin Hamad bin Aqeel Al-Nabit, participated in the opening session of the conference.
Monday, 13 March–Qatar ranked as the world’s third top arms importer for the period 2018–2022, with its arms imports surgingby 311% compared to 2013–2017. Qatar’s main arms suppliers were: the US (42% of the sales), followed by France (29%) and Italy (14%).
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Friday, 10 March–During their talks in Beijing, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, reopen their embassies within two months and implement bilateral cooperation agreements, including in security. All GCC countries welcomed the move. The two countries, which had cut ties in 2016, also reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of states’ sovereignty and non-interference. The joint statement appreciated Iraq’s and Oman’s role in hosting the Saudi-Iran talks in 2021-2022 and China’s sponsoring of the talks. The delegations were represented by Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and Saudi Arabia’s National Security Advisor Musaad bin Mohammed Al-Aiban.
Sunday, 12 March–Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, announced the creation of a new national airline, named Riyadh Air, which will be wholly owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF). The move is part of the country’s efforts to become a global transport and logistics hub, attract tourists and diversify its economy. Saudi Arabia's second national carrier will connect the capital Riyadh to more than 100 destinations around the world by 2030, and is expected to contribute 75 billion Saudi riyals (about €18 billion) to the country's non-oil gross domestic product growth, while creating more than 200,000 jobs.
Tuesday, 14 March−Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced initiatives to boost the growth of the national private sector, as part of its efforts to diversify the economy away from oil. In particular, PIF announced measures to increase the share of local content spending in its domestic portfolio to 60% by the end of 2025, and measures to upskill local suppliers and vendors to meet the growing requirements of the fund's portfolio companies.
United Arab Emirates
Friday, 10 March–Abu Dhabi's clean energy company, Masdar, signed an agreement with the Ivory Coast to explore the development of a solar power plant. The project will start with a capacity between 50 and 70 megawatts, with the African country aiming to produce 45% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2030. The accord is part of the UAE’s Etihad 7 plan, which seeks to finance renewable energy projects in Africa, in a bid to reach a capacity of 20 gigawatts by 2035.
Sunday, 12 March–The UAE launched the Industrialist Programme, an initiative aiming to increase Emiratisation in the industrial sector, train nationals and help them gain technical and specialised jobs. The training programme is the result of an accord signed by the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) and the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council (Nafis).
Friday, 10 March–The European Commission and the Swedish Council Presidency will host an International Donors’ Conference on 20 March in Brussels in support of the people in Türkiye and Syria affected by the recent devastating earthquakes. Co-hosted by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and by Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson, and organised in coordination with the Turkish authorities, the Conference will be open to EU Member States, G20 members (except for Russia), the GCC countries, as well as the UN, international organisations, humanitarian actors and international and European financial institutions.
Friday, 10 March–The European Union presented the first European Space Strategy for Security and Defence. The strategy outlines measures to respond to space threats, the resilience and protection of space systems and services in the EU, and the use of space for security and defence. The EU will strengthen its engagement through existing space security cooperation, in particular with the United States, and expand exchanges with NATO, as well as partner countries.
Wednesday, 15 March–The Schuman Security and Defence Forum, aiming at facilitating dialogue and strategic reflection on international security and defence between the EU, its partners, and potential partnerships, will be held under the auspices of EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, from 20 to 21 March in Brussels. Oman’s Chief of Staff and Sultan’s Armed Forces, Vice Admiral Abdullah Khamis Al-Raisi, will participate in the panel on maritime security.
Wednesday, 15 March–Ambassador and Head of the Saudi Arabian mission to the EU and the European Atomic Energy Community, Haifa Al-Jedea, presented her credentials to the Chief of Protocol of the European External Action Service, Thierry Bechet. During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and the European Union, and ways to strengthen them in various fields.
Key Official Visits
Friday, 10 March–The UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Special Envoy for climate change and COP28 President, Sultan Al-Jaber, met with UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in New York. Minister Al-Jaber reaffirmed the UAE’s commitment to deepening cooperation with the UN on climate action ahead of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Dubai starting from 30 November 2023.
Friday, 10 March–The UAE and Australia hold their 9th Consular Committee meeting to enhance cooperation in joint consular fields. The meeting was chaired by the UAE Director of the Consular Services Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rashed Rahmah, and by Australia’s Assistant Secretary for Consular Communications and Policy at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Alison Duncan.
Friday, 10 March–Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, met with his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, in Paris. During the meeting, the two sides reviewed relations between the two countries and ways to enhance and develop them across various fields. They also discussed international developments and explored ways to continue coordinated efforts for international peace and stability.
Saturday, 11 March–The Arab Ministers of Information are visiting Kuwait, as the country hosts the 16th regular session of the Executive Office of the Arab Information Ministers Council from 12 to 16 March. Nawar Murad, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of Information, indicated that the session is a follow up on the implementation of the Arab Information Council’s resolutions of the 52nd session, held in Cairo in 2022. On the side-lines of the session, the Arab Permanent Group of Experts discussed the joint Arab media strategy to combat terrorism.
Saturday, 11 March–The Saudi Minister of Investment, Khalid Al-Falih, met with Cypriot President, Nikos Christodoulides, in Nicosia. They reviewed the countries’ relations and opportunities for joint cooperation, in particular in the investment sector. Al-Falih also attended the Saudi-Cypriot round table meeting with Cypriot Finance Minister, Makis Keravnos, to review investment opportunities in the fields of energy, transportation, communications, information technology, and health services, and signed a framework cooperation program to enhance the investment bilateral relations.
Sunday, 12 March–On the occasion of her first official visit to Saudi Arabia, the French Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, met Saudi Minister of Culture and Governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, Bader bin Abdullah Al-Saud, in Riyadh. During the visit, the French National Centre of Arts and Culture, Georges Pompidou and the Saudi Royal Commission for Al-Ula signed a strategic partnership agreement that will contribute to the establishment of a Contemporary Art Museum in Al-Ula.
Sunday, 12 March–Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, and Bahrain’s Interior Minister, Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, received the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Director General, Antonio Vitorino, in Manama. During the meeting, they discussed strengthening cooperation in protecting migrants’ rights and reviewed the regional situation.
Sunday, 12 March–Bahrain and Georgia signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation (MoU) in judicial affairs to support effective law enforcement and prosecution of transnational organised crime and facilitate legal cooperation. The accord was signed during the meeting between Bahrain’s Attorney General, Ali bin Fadhl Al-Buainain, and Georgia’s Prosecutor General, Irakli Shotadze.
Sunday, 12 March–Muscat hosted the 9th session of the Oman-Iran Strategic Consultation Committee, co-chaired by Oman’sDiplomatic Affairs Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, Khalifa Ali Al-Harthy, and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Ali Bagheri. The session discussed bilateral cooperation and the latest international developments.
Monday, 13 March–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, received Uzbekistan’s Envoy of the President, Abdulaziz Kamilov, in Riyadh. The meeting focused on regional and international events, as well as on ways to strengthen cooperation in addressing international challenges.
Monday, 13 March–The 9th session of the Abu Dhabi-Japan Economic Council (ADJEC) kicked off in Tokyo, gathering more than 50 senior officials and executives from the public and private sectors. The session aimed to advance the level of cooperation between the business sectors of the two countries, as well as to support Japanese companies to expand their investment in Abu Dhabi. The meeting also focused on enhancing cooperation in the energy, infrastructure, media, education and human resources development sectors.
Wednesday, 13 March–On the sidelines of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) 146th session in Manama, Bahrain’s Shura Council Chairman, Ali bin Saleh Al-Saleh, received the Speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives, Mohammed Raikan Al-Halbousi, and the Speaker of Yemen’s House of Representatives, Sultan Al-Burkani, and highlighted their efforts for development and boosting stability, security, and peace. Moreover, Bahrain’s Council of Representatives’ Speaker, Ahmed bin Salman Al-Musallam, discussed with the head of Iran’s parliamentary delegation, Mojtaba Rezakhah, ways of cooperation and joint coordination.
Tuesday, 14 March–Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, received a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation headed by the First Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Oleksandr Korniyenko. The two sides reviewed bilateral cooperation and reaffirmed their willingness to continue communication on various issues of mutual concern.
Tuesday, 14 March–Bahrain’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs, Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, met with India’s Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, Ausaf Sayeed, in New Delhi. The two sides reviewed bilateral relations and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in the political, economic and social fields. They also discussed regional and international issues of common concern.
Wednesday, 15 March−Bahrain's Minister of Industry and Commerce, Abdulla bin Adel Fakhro, met with his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, to discuss boosting bilateral trade. Bahrain’s Assistant Undersecretary for Domestic and Foreign Trade, Hamad bin Salman Al-Khalifa, and Bahrain’s Ambassador to India, Abdulrahman Mohammed Al-Qaoud, also attended the meeting, which focused on developing joint relations, sharing expertise and discussing new opportunities for cooperation in various commercial and industrial fields.