The Euro-Gulf Monitor
27 October - 2 November 2023
by Elen'Alba Vitiello
5 Top Points
The EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE to discuss cooperation.
EU and GCC university students will benefit from the Erasmus+ exchange programme.
The EU High Representative held calls with Saudi Arabia and key regional partners to the Israel-Palestine situation.
Jordan’s King visited Qatar and the UAE.
Oman held the 10th Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura) election.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Sunday, 29 October–Bahrain hosted the 9th Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) Global Conference under the theme ‘Empowering Data Communities’, marking the first time the event was held in the Middle East. The event was co-organised by Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority (IGA) and a group of international organisations such as the United Nations, the European Central Bank, Eurostat, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others.
Wednesday, 1 November–Bahrain’s Royal Special Force concluded a joint military drill with Omani Armed Forces. The joint exercise aimed to enrich combat command concepts and increase joint Bahrain-Oman military action.
State of Kuwait
Monday, 30 October–The state-owned carrier Kuwait Airways launched direct routes connecting Kuwait with Barcelona with three scheduled flights per week.
Sultanate of Oman
Sunday, 29 October–Oman held the 10th Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura) election for its 2023-2027 term, where 90 representatives were voted in to expedite Oman Vision 2040 goals. For the first time in the Arab World, the election was held with an e-voting system.
State of Qatar
Monday, 30 October–Qatar hosted the two-day first Data Forum in Doha under the patronage of the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani, with the participation of ministries’ representatives, UN’s Statistics Divisions, UNESCO, and the British Statistics Office, among others. The forum ended with the Doha declaration for inclusive data ecosystems to enhance effective decision-making processes, as well as to strengthen partnerships and facilitate cooperation between stakeholders to exchange data and knowledge for management best practices.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Monday, 30 October–Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice granted licences to 15 international law firms to operate in the country to raise the standards of the legal profession, boost the efficiency of legal practitioners, and create a more conducive environment for business and investment.
Tuesday, 31 October–The third Global Cybersecurity Forum kicked off in Riyadh under the theme ‘Charting Shared Priorities in Cyberspace’. The two-day event, attended by industry experts, decision-makers, CEOs, high-level representatives across government, and international companies from over 120 countries, aimed at mapping shared priorities in cyberspace and exploring opportunities for cooperation. The Forum will also see the launch of several initiatives and projects to strengthen international cooperation.
Wednesday, 1 November–Saudi Arabia is set to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup after the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) announced that it is the only country that has filed a bid to host the event. It was announced during the annual ceremony of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), held in Doha, in the presence of AFC’s President, Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, and the President of the Saudi Football Federation, Yasser bin Mohammed Al-Misehal, who affirmed the country’s full commitment to fulfil all FIFA requirements for the right to host the World Cup.
United Arab Emirates
Tuesday, 31 October–Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development (ADDED) will host the 14th edition of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in February 2024, under the theme ‘Global Economic Agenda: Shaping a Sustainable Future’. The Forum is expected to attract more than 2500 participants from 80 countries, including leaders, role players and media representatives from Central Asia, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and beyond.
Friday, 27 October–Following the two-day European Summit, the European Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President, Charles Michel, issued a joint statement, reaffirming the EU’s condemnation of Hamas for its terrorist attacks against Israel and its use of civilians as human shields, stressing Israel’s right to defend itself in line with international law and international humanitarian law. During the Summit, the EU leaders discussed the risk of regionalisation of the conflict and the importance to engage with partners in this respect, including with the Palestinian Authority.
Monday, 30 October–The new European Union Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, embarked on his first official visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud, to discuss EU-Saudi cooperation on climate. He then participated at the Pre-COP28 ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi, and met with COP28 President-designate and UAE's Special Envoy for Climate Change, Sultan Al-Jaber, in preparation of the upcoming COP28.
Tuesday, 31 October–European Union High Representative, Josep Borrel, held a series of high-level calls in light of the Israel-Palestine situation with key partners in the region, including the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry; of Jordan, Ayman Safadi; of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud; and the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Brahim Taha. Borrel debriefed his interlocutors on the discussions at the EU Council, reiterated the call on Hamas to immediately release all hostages without any preconditions, and recalled the urgency for humanitarian access and civilian protection.
Tuesday, 31 October–The European Union Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Christophe Farnaud, and Saudi Arabia’s Education Ministry unveiled the details of the EU’s Erasmus programme in Riyadh, offering opportunities for Saudi students to study in the EU, as well as EU students to study in the Gulf. The meeting was attended by the Erasmus+ National Agency of Ireland, and representatives of leading German and Italian universities, among others.
Tuesday, 31 October–The European Union and Bahrain held their 7th Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels. The EU delegation, headed by the head of the European External Action Service’s Arabian Peninsula and Iraq Division, Anna-Maria Panagiotakopoulou, and Bahrain’s delegation led by the Director General of Legal Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, discussed joint cooperation and reviewed the human rights programme (2022-2026), as well as their mutual commitment to continue an open and constructive dialogue to jointly address the challenges, exchange experience, and best practices with regard to the human rights situation.
Wednesday, 1 November–European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the Arabian Peninsula (DARP), headed by Hannah Neumann, went on an official visit to Saudi Arabia. During the visit, the delegation met with numerous Saudi officials and representatives. They also met with the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Brahim Taha, to discuss the existing EU-OIC cooperation and the situation in and around Gaza, as well as Afghanistan. They also met the GCC Secretary-General, Jasem Mohamed Al-Budaiwi, to discuss Gulf-EU relations and to exchange views on various international issues and developments of common interest.
Key Official Visits
Friday, 27 October–The Deputy President of the Italian Senate, Maurizio Gaspare, held a meeting with the Kuwait National Assembly Parliamentary Friendship Group, in Rome. During the meeting, Gaspare pledged to work in coordination with Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, to urge Iraq to fully comply with the Khor Abdullah agreement.
Friday, 27 October–Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani, received the United States’ Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, in Doha. They discussed the importance of coordinating international and regional efforts in order to end the Gaza crisis, and to achieve a comprehensive and just peace.
Friday, 27 October–The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, received Belgian Minister of Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hadja Lahbib, in Abu Dhabi. The meeting touched on the latest developments in the Middle East and efforts to fight extremism, end violence, de-escalate tensions and safeguard civilians, as well as cooperation in the field of environment and climate change in view of the COP28 UAE. Moreover, they reiterated their interest in boosting UAE-Belgium joint cooperation in all fields to achieve their common interest and to support their development goals.
Saturday, 28 October–Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, held a meeting with Jordan's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan, Ayman Safadi, in Amman. The two Ministers reviewed the unfolding developments and continuing escalation in the Gaza Strip and stressed the need to carry on efforts to end it and reach calm.
Saturday, 28 October–Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, received a phone call from Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, to discuss the latest developments in Israel and Palestine, as well as bilateral relations and regional and international developments of common concern.
Sunday, 29 October–Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, met with Palestine’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah. They reviewed the latest developments and underscored the importance of addressing the challenges in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Moreover, Bahrain’s Minister affirmed the country’s position in opposing the siege in Gaza, and noted that coexistence between a safe Israeli state and a viable Palestinian state is the only way towards the achievement of peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
Sunday, 29 October–Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, went on an official visit to Qatar, where he separately met with Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani. They discussed the Israel-Palestine situation, as well as bilateral relations and ways to enhance and develop them. Moreover, Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani reaffirmed Qatar’s continuous support for efforts to ensure Lebanon’s unity, security and stability.
Sunday, 29 October–The United Kingdom’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, embarked on a three-day visit to Egypt, Jordan and Qatar for talks with his counterparts on the Israel-Hamas conflict, namely regional de-escalation efforts, the humanitarian crisis, the release of hostages held by Hamas, and prospects for a long-term political peace process. He met with Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ayman Safadi, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of State for International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lolwah bint Rashid Al-Khater, and Qatar’s Member of the Shura Council and Chairman of the Internal and External Affairs Committee, Yousef bin Ali Al-Khater.
Monday, 30 October–Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, held a phone call with Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to discuss the latest developments on the Israel-Palestine situation. They also discuss bilateral relations and regional and international topics of common concern.
Monday, 30 October–Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecutor, Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujeb, met with China’s Attorney General, Ying Yong, in Riyadh. Both parties discussed bilateral relations and reviewed the judicial system’s structure and competencies and the advanced digital governance in Saudi Arabia. The visit aimed to strengthen legal cooperation and promote judicial progress between the two countries.
Monday, 30 October–The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, received the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly, in Abu Dhabi. They discussed the latest developments in the Middle East, as well as the UK-UAE cooperation and partnership, especially in the economic and trade fields.
Monday, 30 October–The UAE hosted the Pre-COP28 Ministerial Meeting in Abu Dhabi. The meeting, which served as a preparatory platform for the ministers and delegates, engaged in discussions on how to ensure that COP28 achieves the most ambitious outcomes possible, in addition to accelerating joint efforts and cooperation to reach shared objectives. On the sidelines of the Pre-COP28 meeting, the UK’s Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart, met with Bahrain’s Minister of Oil and Environment, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, Mohammed bin Mubarak bin Daina, to discuss cooperation in the field of environmental conservation, climate change, desertification, and sustainable development goals, as well as UK-Bahrain cooperation programmes in energy reduction and zero neutrality.
Tuesday, 31 October–A delegation from Oman’s economic zones, free zones and industrial cities, members of the Saudi-Oman Business Council, and representatives of major companies and businessmen in Saudi Arabia, met in Riyadh to discuss economic cooperation and investment opportunities available in economic zones, free zones and industrial cities in Oman.
Tuesday, 31 October–Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani, received his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in Doha. During the meeting, they discussed means of cooperation to advance immediate ceasefire in Gaza, protect civilians, and prevent the expansion of violence and conflict in the region.
Tuesday, 31 October–Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, and the the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Tariq Ahmad, co-chaired the first session of the UK-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue, in London. The discussions during the Strategic Dialogue covered a range of bilateral and regional issues including human rights, security and defence cooperation, and mutual trade and investment opportunities. A number of foreign policy issues were also discussed.
Tuesday, 31 October–Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, received Thailand’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Parnpee Bahiddha-Nukara, in Doha. They discussed bilateral cooperation and ways to develop them in various fields, as well as the latest developments of the escalation in the Gaza Strip. Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs also stressed the necessity to open Rafah crossing permanently to ensure the flow of relief convoys and humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.
Tuesday, 31 October–The first UAE-Türkiye Business Forum took place in Istanbul, with the participation of leading figures of the private sector in agri-tech, Artificial Intelligence (AI), clean energy, and smart supply chains, as well as the UAE-Türkiye Economic and Trade Commission. Established in July 2023, the commission seeks to build on the rapid growth in bilateral non-oil trade.
Wednesday, 1 November–Jordan’s King, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, travelled to Qatar and the UAE. He met with Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and the UAE’s President, Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, to discuss the regional and international diplomatic efforts to demand an immediate ceasefire and the protection of civilians in Gaza. Moreover, with UAE’s President, he tackled cooperation, especially in the fields of economy, investment, industry, food security, and other areas that serve the strategic priorities of UAE and Jordan to achieve sustainable development.
Thursday, 2 November–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defence, Khalid bin Salman Al-Saud, met with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Washington, DC. They discussed strategic Saudi-US partnership in the military and defence sector and ways to strengthen it. They also tackled the latest regional and international developments, as well as the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. The meeting came after the Iran-backed Houthis’ cruise missiles and drones attacks in the Red Sea that were intercepted by the US Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS Carney.