The Euro-Gulf Monitor
28 January - 3 February 2022
Arnold Koka & Veronica Stigliani
5 Top Points
Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, visited the UAE for the first time.
EU and Qatar discussed energy supplies to Europe.
Saudi Arabia announced a new strategy for digital tourism.
Oman and Syria discussed regional security and counterterrorism.
Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, visited Manama.
‘Round and About the Gulf
Kingdom of Bahrain
Tuesday, 1 February–The US-led International Maritime Exercise 2022 (IMX) kicked off in Bahrain. The world’s largest unmanned maritime drill, which will last until 17 February, will span across the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea and the North Indian Ocean and will host forces from sixty different countries, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. Israel will also take part in the drill for the first time in history.
State of Kuwait
Sunday, 30 January–Kuwait hosted the 156th session of the Consultative Meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers. The talks focused on the Gulf-Lebanon diplomatic tensions and security cooperation, with the Ministers unanimously condemning the Houthi attacks against the Emirates. The meeting was chaired by Kuwait’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah.
Sunday, 30 January–Kuwait’s national airline, Jazeera Airways, approved a €3 billion (EUR) worth deal with French-based aerospace company, Airbus, for the purchase of twenty-eight A320neo and A321neo aircraft models.
Sultanate of Oman
Monday, 31 January–Oman’s Ministry of Energy and Minerals announced the country will organise the ‘Oman Sustainability Week’ in March 2022, seeking to generate partnerships in the sectors of green economy and sustainable technology.
Wednesday, 2 February—Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) formed a National Committee for Climate Change, which will focus on implementing environmental protection policies.
State of Qatar
Monday, 31 January–Qatar Airways placed a €30 billion (EUR) order with the US aerospace giant, Boeing, for twenty-five 737 MAX 10 jets, thirty-four 777-8 freighter jets and two 777 freighter aircrafts. The deal comes after the French-based Airbus canceled an order with Qatar Airways for the purchase of fifty A321 cargo planes, following a months-long dispute over quality controls.
Tuesday, 1 February–Qatar and the Taliban-led Afghan government reached an agreement on the resumption of evacuation flights from Kabul’s airport. The announcement was made by Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and comes one week after Qatar, Turkey and the Taliban reached a preliminary deal on security management at Kabul’s airport.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Tuesday, 1 February–During the LEAP 2022 Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia announced it will invest over €5.6 billion (EUR) in the developing technologies area as part of its quest to become a regional innovation hub. Investments include a €880 million (EUR) worth Venture Capital fund established by Saudi Aramco and the launch of the world’s first cognitive metaverse by NEOM Tech & Digital Company as part of a project worth over €800 million (EUR).
Tuesday, 1 February–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, announced the Kingdom’s new digital tourism strategy. The strategy will include nine programs and thirty-one initiatives, which will be realised in the 2022-2025 period.
United Arab Emirates
Wednesday, 2 February–The UAE intercepted three drones in an attack claimed by the True Promise Brigades linked to the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq. It was the second attempted attack on UAE this week (the first one coincided with Israeli President’s visit). Following the offensive escalation, the US announced it will deploy the USS Cole guided-missile destroyer warship as well as fifth-generation warplanes to the UAE to assist the country in countering the threats.
The EU Corner
Friday, 28 January‒The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, held a phone call with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. They discussed EU-Qatar partnership, particularly in the field of energy, with President Michel praising Qatar for its role as a gas and security provider to the EU. The discussion followed a phone call between President of the EU Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and Qatar’s Emir.
Tuesday, 1 February‒The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and member of the Council of Ministers, Adel Al-Jubeir, and the Head of the EU Mission to Saudi Arabia, Patrick Simonnet, held a meeting in Riyadh, reviewing EU-Saudi relations. They discussed regional developments and explored ways for cooperation in international issues.
Wednesday, 2 February‒The Deputy Director-General for the Middle East and North Africa of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Carl Hallergard, was on an official visit to Riyadh. The visit aimed to enhance the EU-Saudi Arabia and EU-GCC cooperation in several fields, such as economy, security, and politics. Director Hallergard was received by the Head of the EU Mission to Saudi Arabia, Patrick Simonnet, and met with several Saudi Ministers and Ambassadors, including the Deputy Minister for Multilateral International Affairs, Abdulrahman Al-Rassi.
Key Official Visits
Sunday, 30 January–Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, visited the UAE for the first time, meeting with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. They discussed regional security and developments in Arab-Israeli relations. The visit follows the drone attacks carried out by the Yemeni Iran-aligned Houthi militias against Abu Dhabi after which Israel offered security support.
Monday, 31 January–Qatar’s Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani met with US President, Joe Biden, in Washington. The visit was the first in-person meeting between the two leaders, who discussed energy supplies to Europe amid tensions with Russia and developments in Afghanistan. During the visit, President Biden announced the US will designate Doha as a Major non-NATO ally, a group that includes Australia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Israel, among others.
Monday, 31 January–Oman’s Foreign Minister, Badr Hamad Al-Busaidi, held talks with Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, in Damascus. They discussed Omani-Syrian relations and regional security, as well as cooperation in countering terrorism.
Monday, 31 January–Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, met with Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, in Manama. They discussed regional security, economic and trade cooperation, as well as the upcoming meeting of the Joint Economic Commission in March 2022.
Tuesday, 1 February–British Minister of International Trade, Ranil Jayawardena, travelled to Manama, where he met with Bahrain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani, and with Minister of Finance, Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa. They discussed British-Bahraini partnership in economy, trade and finance, as well as aspects related to the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement talks.
Wednesday, 2 February–During his visit to Manama, Israel’s Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, met with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, and Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Abdullah bin Hassan Al-Nuaimi. On the occasion, Bahrain and Israel signed a security cooperation agreement.
Wednesday, 2 February–Belgium’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Energy, Sophie Wilmès and Tinne Van der Straeten, travelled to Oman and the UAE, as part of a delegation accompanying Belgian King Philippe and Queen Mathilde. In Muscat, the officials met with Omani Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al-Said, discussing cooperation in green energy and sustainability. In the Emirates, the delegation will visit the Dubai EXPO 2020 for the Belgian Day, during which a Belgian-Emirati police cooperation deal will be signed.
Wednesday, 2 February–Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, travelled to Dubai on the occasion of the EXPO 2020 Spanish National Day. He met with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and with UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. The leaders signed a Joint Spanish-Emirati declaration on economic and political relations, which seeks to promote their strategic bilateral partnership. They also discussed cooperation in green energy, cybersecurity, water and tourism sectors.