The Euro-Gulf Monitor

14 - 19 February 2021

by

Arnold Koka & Veronica Stigliani

5 Top Points

  1. The first UAE Ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja, was sworn in.

  2. Bahrain introduced its digital COVID-19 vaccine passport, named “BeAware”.

  3. Qatar and Iran discussed the Nuclear Deal and Doha’s potential mediating role.

  4. The EU and Oman discussed cooperation and trade.

  5. Kuwait’s Emir suspended parliamentary sessions for 30 days amid government standoff.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Kingdom of Bahrain

Sunday, 14 February—Bahrain celebrated the 20th anniversary of the constitutional referendum on the National Action Charter.

 

Wednesday, 17 February–Bahrain launched its digital COVID-19 vaccine passport, named “BeWare”. The app will certificate the person’s vaccination to authorities through the scanning of a QR code. The Kingdom is the first country in the Gulf and one of the first in the world to implement the measure.

State of Kuwait

Wednesday, 17 February–Kuwait’s Emir Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree provisioning the suspension of all parliamentarian sessions for one month, starting from 18 February. The measure comes as a further step following an impasse in the confrontation between the Parliament and the Cabinet, which ultimately led to the Prime Minister’s resignation in January 2021. 

Sultanate of Oman

Sunday, 14 February–Oman’s Ministry of Labour approved nationalisation of employments in higher education institutions. The measure, which is part of the Omanisation efforts, will see Omani citizens replace foreign workers holding the positions.

State of Qatar

Tuesday, 16 February–Qatar’s Minister of Energy, Saad Al-Kaabi, announced that the country aims to be the global leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production for at least 20 years, exploiting the energy transition to renewable sources. Minister Al-Kaabi stated that the country aims to expand its LNG output by 50% to 126 million tons a year by 2026.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, 16 February–Saudi Arabia established a new financial institution, the Bank of Small and Medium Enterprises, which will assist SMEs in securing funding, growth and financial stabilisation activities.

 

Tuesday, 16 February—Saudi Aramco introduced “data diode”, the first locally developed and manufactured information security technology, jointly developed with Advanced Electronics Company (AEC) to strengthen Aramco’s information security and protect its against cyber threats.

United Arab Emirates

Sunday, 14 February–Dubai’s ruler and the UAE’s Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, swore in the first Emirati Ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja. The following day a UAE delegation arrived in Tel Aviv to prepare the UAE embassy’s opening.

 

Monday, 15 February–The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) signed two cooperation agreements in the fields of sustainable agriculture and biosecurity in food and agricultural sectors in Abu Dhabi, which will contribute to the UAE’s efforts to enhance food security.

The EU Corner

Sunday, 14 February­‒The Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia held a virtual meeting attended by the EU countries’ Ambassadors, including the Head of the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia, Patrick Simonnet. Stressing the recent improvements made by Riyadh to protect human rights, the assembly explored fields of cooperation between Europe and Saudi Arabia, considering the objectives of the Vision 2030. The session was chaired by the President of the Commission, Awad bin Saleh Al-Awad.

 

Monday, 15 February‒The Head of the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia, Patrick Simonnet, and the Deputy Head of Mission of the EU Delegation, Jaap Ora, met with the Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al-Saud, to discuss common goals and initiatives.

 

Wednesday, 17 February‒The Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, received the credentials of Head of the EU Delegation to Oman, Patrick Simonnet. The EU Ambassador also met with Oman’s Minister of Economy, Said Al-Sakri, to discuss cooperation and trade between the EU and Oman.

 

Thursday, 18 February—The Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the US Secretary of State released a joint statement on Iran, Yemen, Iraq and the transatlantic partnership. They highlighted the need to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon amid its recent steps towards 20% uranium enrichment and producing uranium metal. The US vowed to return to the JCPOA once Iran fully complies with it. The four officials also affirmed their commitment to addressing other regional actors’ security concerns concerning Iran’s missile programme and regional activities and expressed concerns about the Houthis’ offensive in Marib and their cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Key Official Visits

Monday, 15 February–Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, led a Qatari delegation to Iran. He met with Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to discuss the Iranian Nuclear Deal and Doha’s potential role as a mediator. The Qatari Minister also delivered a written message from Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to President Rouhani.

 

Monday, 15 February–South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker, Park Byeong-seug, visited Bahrain, where he met with King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. They discussed enhancing cooperation in education, culture and arms as well as the establishment of a Korean-Bahraini Parliamentary Friendship Association. King Hamad highlighted the importance of enhancing Bahrain’s cooperation with South Korea and Asia in general.

 

Monday, 15 February–The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, visited Muscat to meet with his Omani counterpart, Badr bin Hamad Al-Busaidi. They discussed cooperation in curbing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and collaboration regarding regional challenges.

 

Monday, 15 February—Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, discussed ways to boost bilateral relations and cooperation, namely within the framework of the OPEC+, the situation in Syria and developments in the Gulf.

 

Tuesday, 16 February–Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate, Saad Al-Hariri, visited Doha, where he met with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the country’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdurrahman Al-Thani. Qatar’s Emir reiterated his country’s support for Lebanon and called for further endeavours to form a government in the country. The discussion also covered economic cooperation.

 

Thursday, 18 February–Saudi Arabia’s State Minister for African Affairs, Ahmed Kattan, met in Sudan with the country’s Head of the Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok. They discussed partnership in agriculture, infrastructure, and manufacturing, and the Kingdom’s willingness to provide support in ending the standoff around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Friday, 19 February—The US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, discussed boosting bilateral relations, the key importance of the US-Saudi strategic defence partnership and the joint efforts in confronting Iranian regime’s destabilising regional activities. The US condemned the Houthis’ attacks against Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed its support to the Kingdom’s right to defend itself.