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The Euro-Gulf Monitor

8 - 14 March 2024

by Elen'Alba Vitiello

5 Top Points

  1. Bahrain and the US coordinated sanctions against four Iranian individuals involved in supporting the Al-Ashtar Brigades.

  2. GCC’s Secretary General plans to visit Brussels to negotiate the Gulf countries’ visa-free travel to the EU. 

  3. Oman acts as an observer of the China-Iran-Russia joint naval drill in the Gulf of Oman.

  4. The UAE and Hungary signed a €5 billion economic cooperation agreement.

  5. Cyprus, the European Commission, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Qatar, the UAE, the UK, and the US announced the maritime humanitarian corridor for Gaza.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Kingdom of Bahrain 

Tuesday, 12 March–The United States, in coordination with Bahrain’s government, imposed sanctions on three Iran-based operatives and a financial facilitator for aiding the Bahrain-based and US-designated terrorist group Al-Ashtar Brigades, namely by materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of the terrorist group.

State of Kuwait

Sunday, 10 March–Following his visit to the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) headquarters, Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Oil Minister, Imad Mohammad Al-Atiqi, highlighted the importance of addressing the issues related to the oil and gas industry and how fossil resources should be replaced with other, more environment-friendly energy sources. He further praised the various OAPEC’s framework to follow up with climate issues and energy transformations.

Sultanate of Oman

Tuesday, 12 March–Representatives from Oman’s navy, alongside Azerbaijan, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and South Africa, are acting as observers of the 5th China-Iran-Russia joint naval drill 'the Maritime Security Belt 2024' in the Gulf of Oman that will run through 16 March. The drill, which involves warships and aviation, coincides with heightened tensions in the Red Sea.

 

State of Qatar

Friday, 8 March–Qatar’s Minister of Finance, Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, and Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology, Tiit Riisalo, signed an agreement on the elimination of double taxation with respect to income taxes and the prevention of tax evasion and avoidance between the two countries in light of strengthening bilateral economic relations.

 

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Thursday, 7 March–Saudi Arabia transferred an 8% stake ($163 billion or €149.7 billion) in the state-owned energy major, Aramco, to companies fully owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), amid reports that the Kingdom could sell more shares in Aramco in 2024. The move is a continuation of Saudi Arabia’s long-term initiatives to boost and diversify the national economy and expand investment opportunities.

United Arab Emirates

Wednesday, 13 March–UAE’s Minister of Economy and Chairman of Investopia, Abdullah bin Touq Al-Marri, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EFG Consulting to boost cooperation at the “Investopia Global Talks–Europe,” which will be held in Milan on 19 May, to help strengthen UAE-Europe economic ties and stimulate investments in critical sectors between the UAE and Italy.

Wednesday, 13 March—The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and British Petroleum (BP) suspended talks to buy a 50% stake in Israel’s natural gas producer, NewMed Energy, for around $2 billion amid uncertainty due to the war in Gaza.

EU Corner

Sunday, 10 March–The EU Ambassador to Qatar, Cristian Tudor, and Qatar’s Minister of Finance, Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, hosted the introductory session entitled 'The State of Qatar and the European Union - Economic Relations’ in Doha, in the presence of 19 EU countries’ Ambassadors. They discussed the actions taken within the framework of Qatar National Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 3, digital transformation, green economy and sustainability, and exchanged ideas regarding ways to strengthen bilateral economic relations.

Monday, 11 March–The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, held a phone call with the UAE President, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. They discussed various aspects of cooperation, ways to enhance UAE-EU relations, and issues of mutual interest, with a particular focus on developments in the Middle East and the Gaza Strip. They affirmed the importance of the initiative recently announced by the European Commission, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US regarding the activation of a maritime corridor to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Wednesday, 13 March–Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, held a phone call with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to discuss ways to strengthen EU-Qatar cooperation and exchanged views on the Gaza Strip crisis, in particular on the hostages’ release and a humanitarian pause. Moreover, Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Qatar joining the maritime corridor to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

Wednesday, 13 March–GCC’s Secretary General, Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, announced he plans to travel to Brussels to negotiate on behalf of the GCC countries a visa-free travel to Europe and exemption from Schengen border rules with EU officials.

Key Official Visits

Friday, 8 March–Representatives from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), STC Group and Aramco, and US Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Tech Affairs, Anne Neuberger, and a delegation composed of 20 leading companies, including Amazon, Qualcomm, Ciena, IBM and Ceres Capital, held a meeting in Riyadh focused on bolstering cooperation in future communications technologies, and explored investment opportunities, joint research and development programmes, and the establishment of joint laboratories.

Saturday, 9 March–UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President, Sultan bin Ahmed Al-Jaber, and his accompanying delegation, visited Greece, where he met with Greece's Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Development Minister, Kostas Skrekas. They discussed ways to strengthen the UAE-Greece Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, particularly in renewable energy sources, and reviewed the $4.2 billion (about €3.8 billion) joint investment fund set up in 2022. On the occasion, they signed the binding Financing and Implementation Agreement regarding the project on the transformation of Poros into «GR-eco Island» between the Greek Government and Masdar and the second renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding for the joint undertaking of investment initiatives between the Hellenic Development Bank of Greece (HDB) and the UAE’s Mubadala.

Monday, 11 March–Jordan’s King Abdullah II held a phone call with Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa to discuss the latest developments in Gaza and stressed the importance of allowing more aid to flow into all parts of the territory.

 

Monday, 11 March–Gordon Pelz, Vice Chairman and Board member of the German Association of SMEs, led a delegation of 16 leading German companies specialised in various sectors, such as agriculture, technology, renewable energy, insure-tech and artificial intelligence, to explore investment and commercial cooperation opportunities in Qatar. The German delegation met with several Qatari officials and visited the Qatar Financial Centre, the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the Qatar Free Zone, among others.

Monday, 11 March–Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Sultan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, held a phone call with Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel Albarez, during which they discussed bilateral cooperation, as well as the latest developments in the Gaza Strip.

Monday, 11 March–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, held a phone call with the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, to discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest, particularly the Gaza Strip crisis.

Wednesday, 13 March–Qatar’s Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Abdullah Al-Hanzab, met with the French Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Frederic Clave, and his accompanying delegation, which included French Ambassador to Sudan, Raja Rabia, in Doha. They reviewed bilateral cooperation as well as the latest developments in the Horn of Africa.

Thursday, 14 March–During his visit to Budapest, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, signed a €5 billion deal with Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, for the redevelopment of the city’s Rákosrendező railway station area on the Vác railway line in Budapest. The UAE-Hungary annual bilateral trade surpassed $1 billion (about €915 million) in 2023, with a growing presence of Hungarian companies in the UAE food industry and ICT sector, a threefold rise from $409 million (about €375.6 million) in 2019.

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