GULF IN REVIEW
11 - 17 January 2020
Kingdom of Bahrain
Sunday, 12 January—Field Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), received Commander of the US Air Forces Central Command, Lieutenant General Joseph T Guastella, and his accompanying delegation, in the presence of Bahrain’s Minister of Defence Affairs, Lieutenant-General Abdulla bin Hassan Al-Nuaimi, and Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dheyab bin Saqr Al-Nuaimi. They discussed military coordination and defence cooperation amid the spike in tensions between Iran and the United States.
Tuesday, 14 January—Vice Admiral James Malloy, Commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, was received by Bahrain’s Interior Minister, General Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, in the presence of Chief of Public Security, Lieutenant-General Tariq Al-Hassan, Coast Guard Commander and Assistant Chief of Public Security for Operations and Training Affairs, and the US Ambassador to Bahrain, Justin Siberell. They discussed bilateral relations, security cooperation and issues of common interest amid heightened regional tensions.
Wednesday, 15 January—President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, and his accompanying delegation met with King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, and discussed developing cooperation, notably in economy, trade and tourism. On the occasion, Bahrain and Seychelles signed several agreements, including on general cooperation between the two governments and on the exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic or official passports, and Memoranda of Understanding between the two countries’ Central Banks and in tourism.
State of Kuwait
Tuesday, 14 January—Walid Ali Al-Khubaisi, Kuwait Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Europe, met with Ambassadors of the European three (E3)—Germany, France and the United Kingdom—as they triggered the Dispute Resolution Mechanism under the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal) following Iran’s continuous violations of the deal.
Tuesday, 14 January—Kuwait’s Cabinet approved the 2020/2021 Budget with a projected deficit of $25.3 billion (USD), a 15% increase compared to the previous year. Kuwait’s spending is projected unchanged, at $74 billion (USD), of which a majority is allocated to civil servants and public subsidies. Revenues decreased by 6% compared to the previous year, being projected at $48.7 billion (USD).
Thursday, 16 January—Chief of General Staff of the Kuwaiti Army, Lieutenant General Mohammad Al-Khodr, and his Saudi counterpart, Fayyad Al-Ruwaili, discussed military issues in light of the mounting tensions between Iran and the United States and potential threat to the Gulf states’ security.
Sultanate of Oman
Saturday, 11 January—Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al-Said, passed away following a long illness aged 79. He oversaw Oman’s modernisation and opening to the world as well as the development of its unique foreign policy based on neutrality.
Saturday, 11 January—Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, was named the new Sultan of Oman. The Minister of Culture and Heritage and cousin of the late Sultan Qaboos was selected as the successor by the late Sultan Qaboos himself in a sealed letter and the Royal Family Council decided to follow his will. Sultan Haitham bin Tariq vowed to continue Sultan Qaboos’ legacy and the foreign policy of non-interference and neutrality.
Monday, 13 January—Leaders and senior officials from the Gulf countries arrived to Oman to extend their condolences to Oman’s Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, following the passing of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said. The most senior figures included: King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Saudi Arabia’s King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai.
State of Qatar
Sunday, 12 January—The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, travelled to Tehran for his first official visit, where he held talks with Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, discussing ways to enhance bilateral ties and calling for deescalation and dialogue amid heightened regional tensions between Iran and the United States.
Wednesday, 15 January—Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, travelled to Iraq and met with senior Iraqi government officials, notably President Barham Salih, Caretaker Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and Foreign Minister, Mohammad A. Alhakim. They agreed on the need to reduce tensions between Tehran and Washington, respect Iraq’s sovereignty and avoid turning it into a battlefield, while preventing the resurgence of Daesh. Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister later met with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, in the presence of Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, and Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani, in Erbil, to discuss the deescalation efforts. Qatar expressed interest in strengthening relations with Iraqi Kurdistan, especially in trade.
Thursday, 16 January—Qatar abolished exit visa requirements for nearly all migrant workers ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This means that most of the migrant workers will no longer be required to obtain their employers’ permission to leave Qatar. The exit visas were part of the controversial kafala system.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 12 January—Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his Gulf tour to address the escalation between US and Iran. He held talks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, as well as Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. Japan seeks to enhance (maritime) security in the Gulf as significant part of its oil supplies is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Japan’s Prime Minister then travelled to the UAE and Oman.
Wednesday, 15 January—France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, in Riyadh. France reaffirmed its willingness to facilitate the deescalation between Washington and Tehran, stressed the need to continue the fight against Daesh and reaffirmed support for peaceful resolution to the Yemen conflict. They also discussed France’s priorities ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting on 22 February.
Thursday, 16 January—Saudi Arabia’s G20 Sherpa, Dr Fahad Almubarak, briefed the United Nations General Assembly on the priorities of the Saudi G20 Presidency in 2020. Under the theme of ‘Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All,’ the Saudi Presidency will focus on three main aims: 1. empowering people by creating equal conditions for all; 2. safeguarding the planet through joint efforts, with focus on food and water security, renewable energy and mitigating climate change effects; and 3. shaping new frontiers by adopting long-term strategies to utilise the benefits of innovation and technological advancement.
United Arab Emirates
Tuesday, 14 January—Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, received Dr Miro Cerar, Slovenia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2020. They discussed bilateral cooperation, including in renewable energy, aviation and tourism, expressing interest in expanding it, and the regional situation.
Tuesday, 14 January—Lord Mayor of the City of London, William Russell, arrived to the UAE to explore opportunities for cooperation between the UAE and the City of London, particularly following Brexit. He met with several officials and businessmen, including Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and highlighted the potential for cooperation especially in emerging fields, such as sustainable finance or fintech.
Wednesday, 15 January—Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received a phone call from Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel. They exchanged views on the latest regional developments, including the Iran-US tensions, the Ukrainian plane mistakenly shot down by Iran’s military, and the need for dialogue.