The Euro-Gulf Monitor
19 - 25 January 2024
by Elen'Alba Vitiello
5 Top Points
The first EU-GCC Regional Security Dialogue took place in Riyadh.
Kuwait’s Emir appointed Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah as Deputy Emir.
The Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, and the Secretary-General of the Arab League attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.
Muscat hosted the Oman-India Investment Forum.
UAE’s President met with Bahrain’s King in Abu Dhabi.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 22 January–Bahrain, together with Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, provided support to additional US-UK military strikes targeting Houthi underground storage site and missile and surveillance capabilities in Yemen amid their continued attacks on international commercial shipping and naval vessels in the Red Sea.
State of Kuwait
Wednesday, 24 January–Kuwait’s Emir, Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, appointed the Prime Minister, Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah as the Deputy Emir, who will lead the country when the Emir is abroad. The unprecedented decision was taken because a crown prince, whose role is to act as Deputy Emir, has not been appointed so far. This measure will remain valid until a Crown Prince is named.
Sultanate of Oman
Saturday, 20 January–The Oman-India Investment Forum took place in Muscat, organised by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI). The Forum discussed enhancing economic cooperation as well as trade and investment exchange to enhance bilateral relations. A number of investors and business owners and the chief financial officers of economic and commercial institutions from both sides were present.
State of Qatar
Wednesday, 24 January–Qatar’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, stated that his the government was ‘appalled’ by the leaked remarks made by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stating that Qatar’s mediation role with Hamas is problematic. Al-Ansari further stated that, if the remarks are found to be true, the Israeli Prime Minister ‘would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritising saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages.’ Qatar and Egypt are currently working on a new agreement that could set free more hostages.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 21 January–Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, reaffirmed that there cannot be a normalisation of ties with Israel without resolving the Palestinian issue and that the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East and real integration that delivers economic and social benefits is through a ‘credible, irreversible process to a Palestinian state’, in an interview aired on CNN.
United Arab Emirates
Wednesday, 24 January–The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) held the Sharjah-Italy Business Forum, with the participation of the Czech-Italian Chamber of Commerce, representatives from Sharjah government agencies and institutions, as well as representatives of Emirati and Italian companies. During the event, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two chambers to boost trade relations, develop economic cooperation, and to hold follow-up meetings.
Monday, 22 January–The EU Foreign Affairs Council, chaired by the High Representative, Josep Borrell, held separate exchange discussions in Brussels on the situation in the Middle East with the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry; Israel, Israel Katz; Jordan, Ayman Safadi; the Palestinian Authority, Riyad Al-Maliki; Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud; as well as the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. With Israel’s Minister, the EU ministers agreed that the catastrophic situation in Gaza and freeing the hostages is the absolute priority. After that, the EU ministers discussed with regional partners in the Peace Day Effort, which includes Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States, the need to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the post-war Gaza, the joint efforts to revive the two-state solution, as well as the work towards a Preparatory Peace Conference. With the Palestinian Foreign Minister, the EU reiterated the EU’s strong support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. Lastly, Borrell shared with EU member states ideas for an EU internal discussion on a comprehensive approach to re-initiate the peace process in the Middle East.
Tuesday, 23 January–The 10th EU-Egypt Association Council meeting took place in Brussels, co-chaired by the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, and Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry. The Association Council took stock of the progress made on the joint Partnership Priorities adopted in June 2022 to promote joint interests. The EU and Egypt agreed on the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach to migration governance, and will continue to cooperate in order to support Egypt’s efforts in hosting refugees.
Wednesday, 24 January–The first EU-GCC Regional Security Dialogue took place in Riyadh. It was co-chaired by the Director of Policy and Planning Department of Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, Khalid bin Fahad Al-Khater, the Deputy Secretary General for Peace, Security and Defence of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Charles Fries, and the Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiations of the GCC, Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg. The Dialogue focused on the situation in the Middle East, Yemen, the Red Sea, Iraq, Iran, the Sahel, Somalia and Ukraine and ways to enhance the EU-GCC cooperation, including in counter-terrorism, maritime security, cyber issues and non-proliferation.
Key Official Visits
Friday, 19 January–Qatar’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, met with French President’s Envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Doha, to discuss latest developments in Lebanon as well as bilateral cooperation. Al-Khulaifi affirmed Qatar’s support for international efforts for Lebanon’s unity and stability.
Saturday, 20 January–On the sidelines of the Third South Summit of the G77 + China in Uganda, Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Waleed bin Abdulkarim El-Khereiji.
Sunday, 21 January–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal bin Fadhil Al-Ibrahim, met with Germany’s State Secretary for Economic, Finance and European Affairs, Jorg Kukies, in Switzerland, to discuss global economic developments and opportunities for cooperation.
Monday, 22 January–Oman’s Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry for Administrative and Financial Affairs, Khalid bin Hashel Al-Muslahi, and the Dutch Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcel De Vink, met in Muscat to review bilateral relations, regional developments and ways to boost cooperation in various fields.
Monday, 22 January–On the sidelines of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, held separate meetings with his French counterpart, Stephane Sejourne, with whom he discussed bilateral relations and ways to bolster them and the current regional situation, notably the situation in the Gaza Strip and the Red Sea.
Tuesday, 23 January–Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maria Gabriel, travelled to Riyadh, where she met with several Saudi officials, including Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud. The talks focused on ways to boost bilateral cooperation in various fields, including energy, as well as regional and international issues of common interest.
Wednesday, 24 January–UAE’s President, Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, met with Bahrain’s King, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, in Abu Dhabi. The two leaders reviewed the Bahrain-UAE ties, asserting keenness to further strengthen cooperation and coordination, discussed the developments in the Middle East, and affirmed the importance of further consolidating joint Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) action to serve the interests of its member states.
Wednesday, 24 January–During their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and Georgia’s Foreign Minister, Ilia Darchiashvili, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the Saudi-Georgian Coordination Council that will aim to expand collaboration.
Thursday, 25 January–UK's Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, David Cameron, and his accompanying delegation arrived in Qatar for separate talks with the Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. During both meetings, bilateral cooperation and prospects of developing them were discussed, in particular in the aid sector, as well as the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and its surroundings, including efforts to reach a ceasefire.