GULF IN REVIEW
20-25 October 2019
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 21 October—Bahrain, in partnership with the United States and Poland, hosted the Warsaw Process Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security on 21-22 October. The meeting focused mainly on prevention and interdiction of illicit shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related substances. It discussed enhancing coordination, enforcing international law and using existing non-proliferation international arrangements to protect maritime and aviation security in the region. The meeting was attended by representatives from dozens of countries from around the world. Bahrain used the occasion to announce its hosting of the first regional training Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) event in 2020.
Thursday, 24 October—Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were ranked by the World Bank as being among top 10 economies in the world that advanced the most in easing doing business in their country based on the number of reforms and their score improvement. Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia improved in nine out of the ten areas measured by the World Bank. Overall, Bahrain ranks the 43rd worldwide and the 2nd in the Middle East and North Africa after the UAE, meaning that Bahrain’s regulatory environment has the 2nd most business-friendly environment for starting and running a company out of the 20 MENA countries and ranks also better than several European countries, including Belgium or Italy.
State of Kuwait
Sunday, 20 October—Kuwait and Estonia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation in cybersecurity, digital governance and digital transformation to assist Kuwait in achieving its goals of turning into a financial hub by 2035 and fulfil the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Wednesday, 23 October—Kuwait seeks to attract European investments to implement the Kuwait Vision 2035. Kuwait’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs, Ambassador Amal Al-Hamad, said that Kuwait plans to strengthen commercial and economic ties with Switzerland on the Swiss National day celebration, while Chairman of the Kuwaiti Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ali Al-Ghanim, expressed the desire to increase trade exchange with Austria at the Austrian-Arab Economic Forum.
Sultanate of Oman
Hungary opened an Embassy in Muscat, under the patronage of Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, and Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjarto. Oman is important for Hungary particularly in relation to its energy security interests. The Hungarian Minister then held talks with Oman’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Ali bin Masoud Al-Sunaidi, President of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Qais Mohammed Al-Yousef, Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance, Nasszer bin Hamis bin Ali Al-Jashmi, and Minister for Higher Education Dr Rawya al-Busaidi.
State of Qatar
Saturday, 19 October—Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, was received by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Istanbul. They discussed bilateral ties and enhancing cooperation on issues of mutual concern, including the situation in northern Syria, where Qatar supports Turkey’s military offensive.
Tuesday, 22 October—Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Sultan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, held talks with Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjarto, in Doha. They reviewed bilateral cooperation and issues of mutual concern and inked an agreement to abolish visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and special passports.
Thursday, 24 October—The Qatari-Turkish Higher Strategic Committee met in Doha under the Chairmanship of Secretary-General of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ahmed bin Hassan Al-Hammadi, to strengthen their bilateral strategic partnership. Deputy Director General of the Middle East Department at Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ismail S Oglu, said that the two countries share views on many regional issues. Ankara also seeks to increase exports to Qatar, Turkey’s Ambassador to Qatar, Fikret Ozer, said on the sidelines of INDEX Qatar 2019.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Monday, 21 October—United States’ Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, arrived in Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, to discuss bilateral ties and reassure Saudi Arabia about the enduring commitment to the regional security of Arab Gulf states in the region. The visit was contucted on the back of mounting US-Iran tensions, Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East and deployment of extra US troops and defence equipment to the Kingdom.
Tuesday, 22 October—Saudi Arabia hosted the ‘Security and Defence Conference for Chiefs of Staff’ with the participation of senior military officials from all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and several other countries—namely Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They explored ways to strengthen military and defence cooperation to protect air, maritime navigation and vital facilities in the Arab Gulf from Iranian attacks.
Wednesday, 23 October—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud appointed the 45-year-old Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, the most recent Saudi Ambassador to Germany, as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing the 70-year-old Dr Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who was, in turn, named Minister of the State and Member of the Cabinet. Other new appointments included Eng Saleh bin Nasser bin Ali Al-Jasser as Minister of Transport, Dr Abdullah bin Sharaf bin Jumaan Al-Ghamdi as Chairman of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence at the ministerial rank, and Dr Essam bin Abdullah bin Khalaf Al-Waqit as Director of the National Information Center at the Ministry of Interior.
Thursday, 24 October—Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, held talks with French officials, notably Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Paris as France seeks to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran. Al-Jubeir said that appeasement toward Tehran does not work because the ones who have real power in Iran, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), refuse to negotiate, while members of the Iranian government, who say they would, lack the power to deliver.
Friday, 25 October—The Yemeni government and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) reportedly agreed on a power-sharing agreement through Saudi mediation, which requires the formation of a new national unity government consisting of 24 ministers—12 from the northern and 12 from the southern governorates—within 45 days, return of the current government officials to the interim capital, Aden, and restructuring of southern military and security forces. A joint Commission, headed by the Saudi-led Coalition, will oversee the deal’s implementation.
Wednesday, 23 October—The UAE’s Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, issued a 10-point list of characteristics that the Emirati personalities should adhere to on social media, encouraging them to refrain from swearing and insulting in conversations and instead using arguments and logic.
Thursday, 24 October—Jumaa Mubarak Al-Junaibi, UAE’s Ambassador to Egypt and Permanent Representative to the Arab League, led the Emirates’ delegation to the 31st session of the Council of Arab League Ministers Responsible for the Environment in Cairo. At the event, the Arab League’s Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, appealed to the Arab countries to make the environment and sustainability of natural resources a priority. The UAE was chosen as a member of the Executive Office of the Council for the next 2 years along with Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, under the chairmanship of Bahrain and Libya.
Thursday, 24 October—UAE’s Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Bowardi, and Japan’s Minister of Defence, Taro Kano, discussed in a phone call defence and military cooperation. They exchanged views on regional issues of common concern, highlighting the need to combat extremism and terrorism to maintain international security and stability.