The Euro-Gulf Monitor

14 - 20 May 2021

by

Arnold Koka & Veronica Stigliani

5 Top Points

  1. Bahrain’s Public Prosecution accused the Central Bank of Iran with laundering more than $1.3 billion through the Manama-based Future Bank to circumvent international sanctions.

  2. Oman announced the construction of one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world.

  3. Saudi Arabia vowed to allocate $1 billion to help African countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  4. The UAE will allow 100% foreign ownership of companies from 1 June.

  5. Qatar’s Foreign Minister met with the Head of Hamas to discuss the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Kingdom of Bahrain

Wednesday, 19 May–Bahrain’s Public Prosecution accused the Central Bank of Iran and several  Iranian banks with laundering around $1.3 billion (USD) through the Manama-based Future Bank, before it was closed down in 2016, in order to bypass international sanctions and restrictions on Iranian individuals and companies.

State of Kuwait

Monday, 17 May–Kuwait announced the easing of several COVID-19 restrictions, including regarding restaurants and bars as well as travelling. The cabinet abolished the requested quarantine for vaccinated tourists, those who prove they have recovered from the illness within the previous three months, or who test negative to the virus. Travels between Kuwait and India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have been limited to departures from the Gulf country.

Sultanate of Oman

Tuesday, 18 May–Oman announced the construction of one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world, with a capacity to produce millions of tons of zero-carbon hydrogen each year. The project, which could cost $30 billion (USD), involves a consortium consisting of Oman’s national oil company, OQ SAOC, the Hong Kong-based InterContinental Energy Ltd, and Kuwait’s EnerTech.

State of Qatar

Wednesday, 19 May–Qatar’s Cabinet announced that it approved a draft law outlining the rules for voting in the country’s first Shura Council elections, scheduled for October 2021, in which 30 of the 45 members will be elected.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, 18 May–Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, announced a plan worth approximately $1 billion (USD) to help African countries recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The Saudi Fund for Development will work on the distribution of investments and loans to the African continent, while the Saudi Public Investment Fund, together with the French Development Agency, will allocate another 200 million EUR specifically to the Sahel countries. 

United Arab Emirates

Wednesday, 19 May–The UAE government announced the amendment of the Commercial Companies Law, which will allow foreigners to own 100% of their companies in the country. The provision will apply from June 2021 and is expected to boost foreign investments and attract international entrepreneurs.  

The EU Corner

Tuesday, 18 May—The European Parliament and the Council agreed on new rules regarding the ‘EU Blue Card’ for highly qualified workers from non-EU countries. The new rules will include more efficient process to attract highly skilled workers with more flexible admission conditions, easing moving and working between member states and improved individual rights.

 

Wednesday, 19 May‒The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) gathered in Vienna to continue its work on the Iran nuclear deal. Representatives of the member states of the Commission, namely China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran, have been discussing the implementation of the accord and a possible return of the United Stated to the JCPOA.

 

Thursday, 20 May—On 21 May 2021, the European Commission and Italy, currently presiding the G20, will co-host the Global Health Summit in Rome. The event will gather representatives of the G20 countries, including Saudi Arabia, and regional and international organisations to share lessons learned from the pandemic and produce a Rome Declaration of principles.

Key Official Visits

Saturday, 15 May–In Doha, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, met with the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, to discuss the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel.

 

Tuesday, 18 May–Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, headed the country’s delegation to the International Conference on Sudan and the Summit on Financing African Economies, hosted in Paris. During his visit to France, he also expressed hope regarding the exploratory talks with Iran, facilitated by Iraq in early April.

Tuesday, 18 May—The United States’ Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, held separate phone calls with his counterparts from Egypt, France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia regarding the situation in Palestine and ways to deescalate the violence.

 

Wednesday, 19 May—Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, held talks with his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, in London. They focused mainly on strengthening bilateral relations and resolving the situation regarding Palestine.

 

Wednesday, 19 May—Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture, Prince Badr bin Abdallah Al-Saud, arrived in Athens, where he met with Greece’s President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, to discuss boosting bilateral cooperation, particularly in the cultural field.