The Euro-Gulf Monitor
24 - 29 January 2021
Arnold Koka & Veronica Stigliani
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Thursday, 28 January–Bahrain received the first batch of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India under the name ‘Covishield’. The Kingdom approved its emergency use three days earlier, reiterating that the vaccine will be free for all citizens and residents in the country.
Thursday, 28 January—Bahrain’s visa exemption agreements for holders of diplomatic and special passports signed with Italy, Hungary, and Israel came into effect.
State of Kuwait
Sunday, 24 January–Kuwait’s Emir Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah reappointed Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah as Prime Minister to form a new government. The decision followed Cabinet’s resignation due to a rift with the Parliament.
Sultanate of Oman
Tuesday, 26 January–Oman will be part of a special commission of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which will address the impact of transition to green energy on occupation and society. The group will include Ministers of Energy from Oman, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, and US energy officials.
Thursday, 28 January—Oman’s Ministry of Labour announced that expatriate workers will be banned from certain private sector jobs and increased costs for employers that hire expatriate workers to encourage them to hire Omani workers.
State of Qatar
Thursday, 28 January–Qatar’s and Poland’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations co-chaired the initial inter-governmental negotiations on reforming the UN Security Council and ensuring fair regional representation among its members.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 25 January–Saudi Arabia introduced the Vision Realization Program (VRP2), an economic strategy of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) for the next five years, aiming to boost the Kingdom’s economic diversification and PIF’s ambition to become the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Under VRP2, the PIF vowed to annually invest $40 billion (USD), allocate $320 billion to non-oil economy and create 1.8 million jobs over the next five years.
United Arab Emirates
Sunday, 24 January–The UAE’s government approved the establishment of an embassy in Tel Aviv. On the same day, Israel opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi, which will be led by Israel’s first Ambassador to the UAE, Eitan Na’eh, who previously served in Turkey.
The EU Corner
Monday, 25 January–France, Germany and the United Kingdom jointly condemned the foiled aerial attack on Riyadh, stressing that such aggressions violate international law and undermine regional stability. The three countries expressed their support to Saudi Arabia and reiterated their commitment to the regional peace process.
Tuesday, 26 January–The European Union appointed the first Arabic speaking media officer for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Luis Miguel Bueno. Based in Lebanon, the officer will engage with the local media to enhance integration between Europe and the Arab world. Among his responsibilities will be communicating the EU values and policies in the region, as well as regional and international matters such as the COVID-19 emergency and environmental issues.
Key Official Visits
Monday, 25 January–Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan held the first bilateral Investment Forum, in the Uzbek city of Bukhara. The Saudi-Uzbek forum was co-chaired by Saudi Minister of Investment, Khalid Al-Falih, and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister, Sardor Umurzakov. During the event a number of deals were inked, provisioning the creation of a Saudi-Uzbek Business Council and arranging cooperation in trade, investment and research.
Monday, 25 January–Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani, met with Jordan’s Minister of Interior, Sameer Ibrahim Al-Mobaideen, in Doha. They reviewed aspects of cooperation, particularly in the security sector.
Tuesday, 26 January—Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, held talks with Commander of the US Central Command, General Kenneth F. McKenzie. They discussed the US-Bahrain strategic relationship and defence cooperation and coordination. The meeting was attended by Bahrain’s Minister of Finance and National Economy, among others.
Tuesday, 26 January–Kuwait’s Foreign Minister, Ahmad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sabah, received Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi. They reviewed bilateral cooperation with Iran praising Kuwait’s role in regional diplomacy. Iran also reiterated its willingness to discuss Gulf security only with regional countries without any foreign parties and refused any renegotiations of the JCPOA, while suggesting the openness to discuss its implementation.
Thursday, 28 January–Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, met in Manama with Peng Xiao, CEO of the Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company, Group 42. They discussed the Kingdom’s response to the pandemic and cooperation with the UAE and China in pursuing medical research to combat COVID-19.
Thursday, 28 January–Kuwait and Pakistan discussed cooperation in economy, energy, agriculture, information technology and health sectors. A Kuwaiti delegation, led by Assistant Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs, Ali Suleiman Al-Saeed, met with Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in Islamabad. Apart from cooperation, they also reviewed regional stability and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Friday, 29 January—Chief of Pakistan’s Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, conducted a two-day official visit to Qatar, discussing cooperation in security and defence with various Qatari officials, including Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.