The Euro-Gulf Monitor
15 - 21 December 2023
by Elen'Alba Vitiello
5 Top Points
Kuwait’s Emir, Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, passed away and was succeeded by his brother and Crown Prince, Mishal.
Saudi Arabia’s Defence Minister met with the French President in Paris.
GCC countries’ officials participated in the 6th Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum held in Morocco.
The Ministerial Committee assigned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit and Foreign Minister of the Nordic and Benelux countries met in Norway to discuss the Israel-Hamas war.
The US, EU, NATO and 44 Allies and partner nations jointly condemned the Houthis’ attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 18 December–Bahrain joined the Operation Prosperity Guardian, a US-led multinational maritime security initiative under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153. The operation will focus on security in the Red Sea, following the attacks originating from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen that threaten the free flow of commerce, endanger mariners, and violate international law. Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, Spain, and the United Kingdom also participate in the Operation.
State of Kuwait
Friday, 15 December–Q8 Aviation, Kuwait’s leading aviation fuel supplier, successfully conducted its first blending process of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at a bio refinery in the northern French port, Le Havre. The produced low emissions fuel will be delivered to the international Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris Orly Airport. The blending process was conducted according to the voluntary sustainability criteria of the ISCC EU standards, a system approved by the European Commission for the certification of sustainable fuels and electricity production.
Saturday, 16 December–Kuwait’s Emir, Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, passed away. The leaders of all GCC countries, the EU, and other countries expressed their condolences and sympathy over his passing. The Crown Prince, Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, was sworn in as the country’s 17th ruler on 20 December 2023.
Sultanate of Oman
Saturday, 16 December–During the visit of Oman’s Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, to India, the first in over 25 years, the two countries adopted a Joint Vision document titled ‘A partnership for the Future’, which identifies numerous key areas to strengthen cooperation, such as maritime and energy security, green energy, space, technologies, finance, trade and investment, health, tourism as well as agriculture and food security. On the occasion, several bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were signed.
State of Qatar
Thursday, 21 December–Qatar’s Foreign Ministry announced the country’s successful mediation efforts between the United States and Venezuela, resulting in a prisoner swap deal. The US-Venezuela crisis came as Venezuela's President, Nicolás Maduro, broke ties with the US after the US recognised Juan Guaidó, the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as the interim President in 2019.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Monday, 18 December–The Saudi initiative to clear land mines in Yemen, Project Masam, dismantled 737 mines planted by the Iran-backed Houthi militia across Yemen, in the second week of December. A total of 425,264 mines have been cleared since the start of the initiative in 2018.
Wednesday, 20 December–Saudi Arabia’s energy provider and developer, ACWA Power, signed a framework agreement with the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (TSFE), the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE), the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC), and the Egyptian New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA), to establish a green hydrogen project in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, building on the MoU inked in December 2022. The first phase of the project will aim to produce 600,000 tonnes of green ammonia annually, representing an investment exceeding $4 billion (about €3.6 billion). The project expands ACWA Power’s portfolio in Egypt to five renewable energy projects with a generation capacity of 1.4 GW.
United Arab Emirates
Tuesday, 19 December–The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced the completion of the final unit of the Barakah nuclear energy plant, which is expected to generate 25% of UAE’s electricity needs for the next 60 years.
Wednesday, 20 December–UAE’s Mubadala Energy discovered a deep-sea gas reserve in Indonesia’s South Andaman Block, which is estimated to be the world’s second-largest deep-water discovery this year.
Tuesday, 19 December–The Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of the European Council, Simon Mordue, met with the Egypt’s Ambassador to the EU, Badr Ahmed Mohamed Abdelatty, Palestine’s Ambassador to the EU, Abdalrahim Al-Farra, and Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the EU, Haifa bint Abdurrahman Al-Jedea, in Brussels, to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, and in particular the Gaza situation, to push for peace and uphold the principles of international law and humanitarian law.
Tuesday, 19 December–The EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, on behalf of the European Union, together with NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, the US, and 44 allies and partner nations, issued a joint statement condemning the Houthi attacks on the freedom of navigation in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula, and in particular the Red Sea. The attacks originating from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, including the attacks on 3 December against three commercial vessels in the Southern Red Sea connected to 14 nations, threaten international commerce and maritime security.
Key Official Visits
Thursday, 14 December–The UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, David Cameron, separately met with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, in London, to discuss bilateral relations and the latest regional and international developments, notably the situation in Gaza.
Friday, 15 December–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior, Abdulaziz bin Saud Al-Saud, met with his Italian counterpart, Matteo Piantedosi, in Riyadh, to discuss means of bolstering security cooperation between the two ministries as well as issues of common interest.
Friday, 15 December–The Ministerial Committee, assigned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit, under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, held a meeting with the Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, and with several Foreign Ministers of the Nordic and Benelux countries, including Hadja Lahbib of Belgium, Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark, Elina Valtonen of Finland, Bjarni Benediktsson of Iceland, Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, Hanke Bruins Slot of the Netherlands, Espen Barth Eide of Norway, and Tobias Billström of Sweden, in Oslo. The Ministerial Committee members are the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Ayman Al-Safadi, Palestine’s Riad Malki, Qatar’s Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Türkiye’s Hakan Fidan and the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Hussein Ibrahim Taha. During the talks, they discussed the developments in the Gaza Strip, and called upon the Nordic and Benelux countries to address the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Friday, 15 December–The Saudi and Iranian delegations, headed by the Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister, Waleed bin Abdulkarim El-Khereiji, and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri Kani, held their first meeting, chaired by Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister, Deng Li, in Beijing, to follow up on the China-brokered agreement, which restored diplomatic ties between the two countries, signed on 10 March 2023.
Saturday, 16 December–Bahrain’s King, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, held a phone call with Palestine’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the security situation and ways to use all means to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian population.
Sunday, 17 December–The High-Level Joint Steering Committee headed by Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Defence, Talal bin Abdullah Al-Otaibi, and UK’s Director-General of Industry, Trade, and Economic Security of the Defence Ministry, Avril Jolliffe, held a meeting in London. They reviewed their strategic defence relations and ways to enhance them. Talal bin Abdullah Al-Otaibi also met with UK’s Minister of State for Defence Procurement and Member of Parliament for South Suffolk, James Cartlidge, with whom he explored opportunities for developing military cooperation.
Monday, 18 December–US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd J Austin III, went on a two-day official visit to Israel, Kuwait, and Qatar, to reiterate US’ commitment to regional security and stability. In Israel, he met with the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, and the Israel War Cabinet. In Manama, he met with Bahrain’s King, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, and the Commander in Chief of Bahrain’s Defence Force, Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-khalifa. In Qatar, he met with the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah.
Wednesday, 20 December–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defence, Khalid bin Salman Al-Saud, travelled to Paris and met with France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, to discuss bilateral relations. During his visit, the Saudi Defence Minister also held talks with his French counterpart, Sébastien Lecornu. They reviewed strategic relations, defence cooperation and shared vision for regional security and stability. Moreover, the Saudi and French Defence Ministers witnessed the signing of an executive agreement for cooperation on capabilities, military industries, and research and development.
Wednesday, 20 December–The sixth Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum took place in Marrakech, co-chaired by Morocco's Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. The meeting was attended by the Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League, Houssam Zaki, and several ministerial delegations from the participating Arab states, including from all GCC countries. The Forum, which usually focuses on diplomatic and economic ties, mainly focused on the Gaza crisis and jointly called for a UN ceasefire resolution for the Israel-Hamas war.
Thursday, 21 December–UAE’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and Portuguese Foreign Minister, João Gomes Cravinho, held a phone call to discuss bilateral cooperation as well as the developments in the Middle East and the humanitarian situation.