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The Euro-Gulf Monitor

12 - 18 January 2024

by Elen'Alba Vitiello

5 Top Points

  1. Kuwait formed a new government, the first under the new Emir Meshal.

  2. Oman condemned the US-UK retaliatory strikes against the Houthis in Yemen following the attacks in the Red Sea.

  3. Qatar and France helped mediate an agreement between Israel and Hamas to allow humanitarian aid in Gaza via Egypt.

  4. The EU and the UAE held the 12th Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels. 

  5. Saudi Arabia held talks with Iraqi and Pakistani officials following Iranian strikes in their territories.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Kingdom of Bahrain 

Thursday, 11 January–Bahrain, together with Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, provided support to the joint US-UK military strikes against targets in Yemen used by the Houthis to launch dozens of attacks on ships in the Red Sea, which disrupted international trade and affected more that 50 nations. The strikes followed repeated calls on the Houthis by the international community to cease the attacks as well as the UN Security Council Resolution 2772 condemning the Houthi attacks.

State of Kuwait

Wednesday, 17 January–Kuwait formed a new government, headed by Prime Minister, Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the first under the new Emir, Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. The new Cabinet includes Foreign Minister, Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya, Oil Minister, Emad Mohammed Hassan Al-Ataqi, Finance Minister, Anwar Ali Al-Mudhaf, and Acting Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Interior, Fahad Yousef Al-Sabah.

Sultanate of Oman

Friday, 12 January–Oman condemned the US-UK retaliatory strikes aimed at weakening the Iran-backed Houthis’ military capabilities in Yemen in response to their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Oman, as well as several other GCC countries, expressed great concern over the expansion of the conflict in the region as a result of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

 

State of Qatar

Monday, 15 January–QatarEnergy paused its liquified natural gas (LNG) shipments via the Red Sea in response to the increased concern of escalation following the US and UK strikes in Yemen against the Houthis, delaying Europe’s LNG supply for several days. Qatar, which is the world's second largest LNG exporter, accounted for around 13% of Western European LNG consumption in 2023.

Tuesday, 16 January–Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, the Official Spokesperson of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced a successful Qatari-French mediation of an agreement between Israel and Hamas to allow the delivery of medicine and humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip through Egypt.

 

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, 17 January–Italian contractor, WeBuild, was awarded a contract worth around 20 billion Saudi Riyals (about €4.6 billion) to build dams that will form an artificial lake at NEOM’s Trojena mountain ski resort in northwest Saudi Arabia that will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029.

 

Wednesday, 17 January–Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organisation that includes Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, the UK, and the US among others, to stimulate economic progress, aimed at enhancing public policy initiatives across a diverse range of sectors, including the economy, taxation, corporate governance, and sustainability. The MoU was formalised at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos, Switzerland. 

United Arab Emirates

Thursday, 11 January–The Emirates Steel Arkan (ESA) signed a five-year $2 billion (about €1.8 billion) iron-ore pellets supply contract with Bahrain Steel Company (BSC) at the 4th meeting of the Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth initiative, aimed at fostering sustainable economic growth and exemplifying the potential of cross-border collaborations, held in Manama. During the meeting, Morocco officially joined the Partnership, which includes Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan  and the UAE.

 

Friday, 12 January–The UAE expressed its concern regarding the repercussions of the attacks on maritime navigation in Bab Al-Mandab and the Red Sea, which constitute a threat to international trade, security of the region, and international interest.

EU Corner

Thursday, 11 January–Oman’s Foreign Minister, Badr bin Hamad Al-Busaidi, met with EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, in Brussels. Their discussion centred on the ongoing war in Gaza, the growing tensions in the Red Sea and its regional and worldwide repercussions. The two sides stressed the need to work towards the two-state solution.

Friday, 12 January–The EU welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2772 that strongly condemned the Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping and urged restraint by the Houthis to avoid further escalation in the region and across its borders. 

Tuesday, 16 January–The European Union delegation, led by the Head of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq division at the European External Action Service, Anna-Maria Panagiotakopoulou, and the UAE delegation, led by the Director of the Strategic Communication Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Afra Mahash Al-Hameli, held the 12th EU-UAE Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels. The two sides exchanged views on the latest developments on human rights issues in the EU and the UAE, with the aim to share experiences and best practices to address common challenges. They also explored possibilities for further cooperation in international human rights fora, women’s rights as well as technology.

Tuesday, 16 January–The European Council decided to add Hamas’ political leader, Yahya Sinwar, to the EU terrorist list, as part of the EU’s response to the threat posed by Hamas and its terrorist attacks in Israel on 7 October 2023. Sinwar’sfunds and other financial assets in thhe EU member states will be frozen and EU operators are prohibited from makingfunds and economic resources available to him.

Key Official Visits

Friday, 12 January–Oman’s Foreign Minister, Badr bin Hamad Al-Busaidi, received a phone call from Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein. They discussed the developments and dangerous escalation in the Red Sea region and Yemen, and agreed on addressing the causes of the conflict by stopping the Israeli aggression and the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Saturday, 13 January–A German delegation, headed by the Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, travelled to Oman to explore investment opportunities in renewable energy, gas, logistical transport and food security. This visit is part of the first executive plan for Oman Vision 2040, which adopted several strategic programmes for economic diplomacy, such as ‘Raising the Contribution for Foreign Trade to Economic Activity’ program, which activates the role of embassies and commercial representation offices in marketing Oman and attracting investments.

Monday, 15 January–Saudi Arabia’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Waleed bin Abdulkarim El-Khereiji, met with the French Director of Strategic Affairs, Disarmament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guillaume Aulagnier, in Riyadh. During the meeting, the two sides reviewed Saudi-French relations and ways to further strengthen them, as well as matters of mutual interest, with a focus on enhancing international peace and security.

 

Monday, 15 January–The GCC members’ senior officials and the GCC Secretary-General, Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, participated in the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, under the theme ‘Rebuilding Trust.’ Saudi Arabia’s delegation included, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Investment, and Bandar Alkhorayef, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources. The UAE delegation included Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Gergawi, Economy Minister, Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri, and Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al-Olama. Qatra’s delegation was led by Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, while Bahrain’s delegation was headed by Minister of Finance and National Economy, Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa.

On the sidelines, of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, GCC officials held several high-level meetings. For example, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani,met with the Belgium’s Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, Germany's Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, and the Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hanke Bruin, among others. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, met with Finnish Foreign Minister, Elina Valtonen, and UK’s Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, among others. Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri, UAE’s Minister of Economy, met with the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Tuesday, 16 January–Qatar’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, separately met with the Special Envoy of Austria’s Chancellor, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, and British Foreign Secretary’s Representative for Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Mark Bryson-Richardson, in Doha. Qatar’s Minister discussed cooperation relations with both countries, as well as the latest developments in the Gaza Strip.

Wednesday, 17 January–Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, separately met with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Pakistan's Caretaker Prime Minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister discussed bilateral relations with both sides, as well as developments on the Pakistani-Iranian border following Iranian strikes and Pakistan’s retaliation and the importance of maintaining international peace.

Wednesday, 17 January–On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos, Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, held talks during which they reviewed bilateral relations and way to bolster them in various fields. They also discussed regional and international developments, in particular the ongoing war in Gaza. 

Thursday, 18 January–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, held a phone call with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Mohammed Hussein. They discussed regional and international issues, in particular the recent developments in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq following the recent Iranian airstrike on Erbil, as well as bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in various fields.

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