GULF IN REVIEW
05 - 11 July 2020
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 6 July—Bahrain established a new security body, the Strategic Security Bureau, affiliated with Bahrain’s highest defence authority, the Supreme Defence Council (SDC). The Strategic Security Agency will be headed by Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khalifa and its activities will be determined by the SDC. Additionally, National Security Advisor, Major General Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, was appointed as SDC’s Secretary-General and Dr Abdulla bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Chairman of DERASAT, became SDC’s Deputy Secretary General.
Monday, 6 July—Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa held a phone call with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, reviewing bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation and coordination. They also discussed the Syrian crisis settlement and Syria’s territorial integrity, in addition to international efforts to combat COVID-19 and its impact.
Tuesday, 7 July—Bahrain’s Interior Minister, General Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, and the outgoing United States’ Ambassador, Justin Siberell, signed a letter of agreement to promote bilateral ties in the detection of explosives and other related materials, as part of counter-terrorism training and cooperation between the US and Bahraini authorities.
Tuesday, 7 July—Bahrain’s Ministry of Finance and National Economy published the Q1 2020 Bahrain Economic Quarterly report, which presented the Kingdom’s economic performance data for the first quarter of 2020, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the drop in oil prices. The country’s real GDP growth (at constant prices) and GDP nominal growth (at current prices) declined to -1.1% and -4.9%, respectively. The real GDP growth of the oil sector increased by 1.8%, while the non-oil sector saw a decrease by -1.7%. Economic performance grew in manufacturing (4.8%), social and personal services (1.3%) and construction sector (0.3%), while hotels and restaurants registered a -36% decline.
State of Kuwait
Monday, 6 July—The United Kingdom’s Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, and Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Khaled Al-Jarallah, discussed bilateral partnership and issues related to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Yemen. Cleverley later also spoke with the GCC’s Secretary General about trade and investment opportunities and the importance of UK-GCC Strategic Partnership.
Tuesday, 7 July—Kuwait’s Public Authority for Manpower will support Kuwaiti private sector employees and business owners with 240.5 million Kuwaiti dinars ($780 million) over the next six months to support local workforce in the foreign workers-dominant private sector amid negative economic impact of COVID-19.
Sultanate of Oman
Thursday, 9 July—Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain are among thirteen countries for which Italy banned entry, citing a high rate of COVID-19 cases. The other countries include: Armenia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Dominican Republic, Moldova, North Macedonia, Panama and Peru.
Saturday, 11 July—Oman ranked for the first time among countries with very high E-Government Development Index (EGDI) in the 2020 United Nations E-Government Ranking, which assesses the government digitalisation developments in all UN member states and is published every 2 years by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). Five of the six GCC countries ranked in the highest EGDI category: the United Arab Emirates ranked 21st, Bahrain 38th, Saudi Arabia 43rd, Kuwait 46th and Oman 50th. Qatar ranked 66th in the lower category, among countries with high EGDI.
Saturday, 11 July—According to Oman’s National Centre for Statistics and Information, the Sultanate’s budget deficit fell to 26.3 million Omani riyals in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, which represents a 91.5% decrease compared to 2019. Total public revenues decreased by 3.5%, while the total public expenditure decreased by 12.5% compared to Q1 in 2019. The nominal GDP decreased by 3.9% to 6.75 billion Omani riyals in Q1 2020.
State of Qatar
Wednesday, 8 July—Speaking to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on the situation in Libya, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, said that the Libyan crisis can be resolved only by supporting the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez Al-Sarraj and backed by Turkey and Doha, highlighting the need to commit to the 2015 Skhirat Agreement and the Berlin Conference outcomes.
Thursday, 9 July—Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani received the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President-elect, Volkan Bozkir, and his accompanying delegation. They discussed several regional and international issues and the Qatar-UN relations. The 75th UNGA session will open on 15 September 2020.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 5 July—Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry announced a three-months free of charge extension of the validity of exit and return visa for foreign residents, who could not leave the Kingdom or to return from abroad because of the closure of borders due to COVID-19.
Sunday, 5 July—Saudi Arabia opened the world’s largest camel hospital, the Salam Veterinary Hospital in Buraidah, which was built for 100 million Saudi riyals.
Tuesday, 7 July—The Washington, DC federal court found Iran responsible for the 25 June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel and 1 Saudi citizen and wounded over 400 people. The Court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material support to Hezbollah operatives, which detonated the 5,000-pound truck bomb and ordered Iran to pay $879 million.
Tuesday, 7 July—Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman Al-Saud, received a telephone call from British Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, discussing UK-Saudi defence and military cooperation ways to strengthen them, particularly in military defence exports. The UK appreciated Saudi Arabia’s role in maintaining regional stability and protecting maritime shipping.
Wednesday, 8 July—Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, and France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Mair, co-chaired a virtual High-Level Conference on Restoring Sustainable Flows of Capital and Robust Financing for Development, hosted by the Saudi G20 Presidency and Paris Forum. The event discussed the international capital flows volatility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ways to deal with it, such as the recently launched joint debt service suspension initiative (DSSI). The event’s outcomes will inform the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting on 18 July.
United Arab Emirates
Sunday, 5 July—The UAE Cabinet was restructured—about 50% of federal agencies were merged, creating new ministerial positions, and 50% of government service centres were ordered to transform into digital platforms within two years. The merger created new Ministries, including Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, led by Sultan Al-Jaber, or Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, headed by Suhail Al Mazroui. Hamad Al-Mansoori became Head of the UAE Digital Government. The Ministry of Economy will be headed by Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, Ahmed Belhoul, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, and Thani Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade.
Monday, 6 July—Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Gordan Grlić Radman, Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, discussed bilateral strategic ties and enhancing cooperation in various fields, notably in investments, trade and health. They also touched upon efforts to combat COVID-19 and the situation in Libya.
Friday, 10 July—Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, visited South Korea on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. He met with Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, to discuss strengthening cooperation in many fields, particularly economy, trade and investments, defence, energy, health or food security. They also reviewed regional developments regarding Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen and announced a fast track entry system between the two countries.