The Euro-Gulf Monitor
14 - 21 September 2023
by Elen'Alba Vitiello
5 Top Points
The EU, Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, in cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, launched the Peace Day Effort to revitalise the Middle East peace process.
Saudi Arabia and a Houthi delegation held talks in Riyadh.
In a first, the United Kingdom’s Minister for International Trade attended the GCC Trade Ministers’ summit in Oman.
The GCC countries held Joint Ministerial Meetings with the UK and the US.
Kuwait joined the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in its first expansion.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Thursday, 14 September–Bahrain’s Oil and Environment Minister and the Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, Mohammed bin Mubarak bin Dainah, inaugurated the fuel farm project at the Bahrain International Airport (BIA). The project enhances Bahrain’s position as a main hub for jet fuel services and contributes to the countries’ objectives of the comprehensive development process.
Tuesday, 19 September–Bahrain will host the DP World International Golf tour from 1 to 4 February 2024, under the patronage of the country’s King, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, to enhance Bahrain’s capabilities in organising international sporting events.
State of Kuwait
Friday, 15 September–Tensions rose between Kuwait and Iraq after the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruled the agreement regulating navigation in the Khor Abdullah waterway between the two countries as unconstitutional. Kuwait’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab Homeland Affairs, Ahmad Al-Bakr, handed a protest note to Iraq’s Ambassador, Al-Manhal Al-Safi, which rescinded the agreement on maritime navigation. The agreement, which governs maritime navigation in that waterway, was reached in 2012 and ratified by both countries’ legislative bodies in 2013. The GCC Foreign Ministers called on Iraq to take serious and urgent steps to address the negative effects of the ruling.
Saturday, 16 September–The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) awarded Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC) new exploration licences to develop the Eirin field in Norway, in cooperation with Norwegian international energy company, Equinor, expected to start as early as 2025. KUFPEC is an international upstream company engaged in exploration, development, and production of crude oil and natural gas outside Kuwait.
Sultanate of Oman
Monday, 18 September–The works on Oman’s new integrated Economic Zone at Al-Dhahirah (EZAD), near the border crossing with Saudi Arabia, began. It will be designed to serve as an economic growth engine aiming to capitalise on the growing investment and economic exchanges between the two countries following a series of Omani-Saudi economic cooperation agreements signed in February 2023.
State of Qatar
Thursday, 14 September–Qatar’s Justice Minister, Masoud bin Mohammed Al-Amri, announced the country’s initial steps towards implementing artificial intelligence in the local judicial and legal systems.
Monday, 18 September–Qatar’s Minister of Transport, Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, unveiled the country’s Self Driving Vehicles Strategy at the two-day Sustainable Transportation and Legacy for Generations conference in Doha. The strategy outlines a five-year plan to regulate the use of self-driving vehicles, targeting a smart and environmentally-friendly transit system.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Thursday, 14 September–Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier, Saudia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Red Sea Global, a multi-project developer behind the tourism destinations of the Red Sea and Amaala, becoming the first airline to operate flights to and from the Red Sea International Airport (RSI). RSI will open domestic flights to and from Riyadh and Jeddah, before expanding to international flights in 2024.
Wednesday, 20 September–Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, discussed the Kingdom’s future trajectory and foreign relations during his first interview with a major US media network since 2019. He declared that Saudi Arabia is moving closer to normalising relations with Israel. On relations with Iran, there has been some progress but if Tehran obtains a nuclear weapon, Riyadh would have to follow suit for security reasons. Regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Kingdom maintains good relations with both sides and seeks to support dialogue to end the war and the OPEC+ oil production cuts aimed to stabilise the market and not help Russia in its war. He also pointed to the important security ties with the US and ruled out that the BRICS would be aimed against the West, while noting that Riyadh had unsuccessfully sought to join the G7.
United Arab Emirates
Wednesday, 20 September–The UAE is the second largest economy in the Arab world, according to the country’s Economic Ministry. The UAE grew by around 3.8% in the first half of 2023 and is projected to grow by 6% throughout the year. The Ministry is also planning to double the country’s GDP to 3 trillion AED (about €769 billion) by 2031.
Thursday, 21 September–The UAE’s first water-based waste collecting drone, PixieDrone, will start picking up waste at Dubai Harbour, as part of green innovation efforts.
Thursday, 14 September–The European Parliament introduced a series of measures aimed at improving transparency in response to the corruption scandal alleging that Members of the Parliament received bribes from Qatar and Morocco. Among other measures, Members of the European Parliament are now obligated to disclose all paid work activities if their additional income surpasses €5,000 a month.
Monday, 18 September–The European Union, Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, in cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, launched the Peace Day Effort for Middle East Peace. This effort seeks to revitalise the peace process in the Middle East and produce a Peace Supporting Package that will maximise peace dividends for the Palestinians and Israelis once they reach a peace agreement. To this end, three Working Groups—on Political and Security cooperation mechanisms, Economic and Environmental cooperation, and Human Dimension—were established.
Monday, 18 September–The European Union High Representative, Josep Borrell, Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and the International Peace Institute’s (IPI) President, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, co-hosted the IPI’s annual dinner with in New York. The discussion focused on the situation in the Middle East, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Tuesday, 19 September–The European Union Special Representative for the Gulf Region, Luigi Di Maio, met with UAE’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, to discuss UAE-EU partnership. They are cooperating on a broad agenda of shared interest, covering urgent climate action, trade and the energy transition.
Wednesday, 20 September–Kuwait and Kenya became the first two new members of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), a multilateral counterterrorism body, co-founded in 2011 by the European Union, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and United Kingdom, among others. On the occasion, Kuwait’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jarrah Jaber Al-Sabha, participated in the 13th GCTF Ministerial Meeting, which was co-chaired by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, and Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry. The forum aims to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism all over the world.
Key Official Visits
Thursday, 14 September–UAE’s Minister of State, Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, met with the President of Iraq, Abdul Latif Rashid, during the 10th session of the UAE-Iraq Joint Committee, in Baghdad.
Friday, 15 September–A Houthi delegation, headed by Mohammed Abdulsalam Felitah, travelled for the first time since 2014 to Riyadh for five-day talks with Saudi Arabian officials with Omani mediation. The meetings discussed a potential agreement to end the eight-year conflict in Yemen, focusing on a full reopening of the Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, public servants’ wages, rebuilding efforts, and a timeline for foreign forces to exit Yemen. Moreover, the Houthi delegation met with Saudi Minister of Defence, Khalid bin Salman Al-Saud.
Friday, 15 September–United Kingdom’s Minister for International Trade, Nigel Huddleston, travelled to Oman to attend the GCC Commerce Ministers’ Summit, aiming to boost efforts to conclude the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement. It was the first time a UK Minister has been invited to the GCC Trade Ministers’ summit.
Monday, 18 September–The GCC-US Joint Ministerial Meeting took place in New York, on the sidelines of UNGA 78, with the participation of the GCC’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General of the GCC, Jasem Mohamed Al-Budaiwi, and the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. The meeting discussed ways to enhance the GCC-US strategic partnership, as well as the latest regional and international developments in Palestine, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, and Yemen.
Monday, 18 September–Qatar’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, met with Iran’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs and chief Iranian negotiator for the negotiations to return to the nuclear agreement, Ali Bagheri, in New York, on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78). During the meeting, they discussed efforts related to negotiations to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal and bilateral cooperation, while the Iranian representative lauded Qatar’s efforts to mediate the recent US-Iranian prisoner swap agreement.
Tuesday, 19 September–The GCC-UK Joint Ministerial Meeting took place in New York, on the sidelines of UNGA78, with the participation of the GCC’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General of the GCC, Jasem Mohamed Al-Budaiwi, and UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Developments Affairs, James Cleverly. During the meeting, the representatives discussed the GCC-UK relations and cooperation in the political, security, economic and development sector, and ways to expand areas of political cooperation.
Wednesday, 20 September–Oman’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, Qais bin Muhammad Al-Yousef, received an Iranian delegation, led by the Minister of Industry, Minerals and Trade, Abbas Aliabadi, in Muscat. They discussed potential opportunities for boosting mutual investment and trade relations, notably in industry, tourism, mining, food security, and logistics.
Wednesday, 20 September–Oman’s Foreign Minister, Badr Al-Busaidi, held separate meetings with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, and Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in New York, on the sidelines of UNGA78.
Wednesday, 20 September–Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, held a meeting with the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, in New York, on the sidelines of the UNGA 78. The meeting dealt with discussing bilateral cooperation between the State of Qatar and the agency. The two sides affirmed IAEA’s important and leading role, particularly in preventing nuclear proliferation.
Wednesday, 20 September–Qatar’s Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed bin Hassan Al-Hammadi, received Yemen’s Minister of Foreign Affairs for Financial and Administrative Affairs, Awsan Abdullah Al-Aud, in Doha.
Wednesday, 20 September–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, met with his Danish counterpart, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, in New York, on the sidelines of the UNGA78. During the meeting they discussed the new Danish law presented following the Quran burnings to prevent insults to religions and beliefs.
Wednesday, 20 September–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Member of the Council of Minister, and Envoy for Climate, Adel Al-Jubeir, met with UK’s Minister of Energy Security and Net Zero, Sutart Graham, in New York, on the sidelines of the UNGA 78. During the meeting they discussed bilateral relations and they exchanged views on topics related to environment, climate, and reducing the effects of climate change.
Thursday, 21 September–Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, met with Yemen’s Chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Mohammed Al-Alimi, on the sidelines of the UNGA78 in New York. They discussed Bahrain’s support for Yemen’s security and stability and highlighted the countries’ close cooperation.