GULF IN REVIEW
22 - 27 December 2019
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 23 December—Manama was named the Capital of Arab Tourism 2020 at the 22nd Arab Ministerial Council for Tourism meeting in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Bahrain, along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia, was elected to the Executive Office of the Arab Ministerial Council for Tourism for the period 2020-2021. The 25th session of Executive Office focused on tourism security challenges and reviewed the draft of the Arab Tourism Strategy.
Wednesday, 25 December—Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa approved amending the Penal Code, adjusting the penalties for persons convicted of acquiring, possessing, making, planting or using inflammables or explosives with the intention to use or distribute them to endanger people’s lives or public and private funds. The punishments will be graded according to the gravity of the crime: 5 years imprisonment and a fine up to BD500 (Bahraini dinar) for possession; up to 8 years of imprisonment for distribution or use; minimum of 10 years in prison and a fine BD500-BD1,000 for bomb-making; between 10 years and life in prison for an attack resulting in somebody’s permanent disability; death sentence or life imprisonment for causing death of another person.
Wednesday, 26 December—The Bahraini businesses with an annual supply value over BD37,500 (Bahraini dinar) had until 26 December to register for the third phase of the value-added tax (VAT) regime implementation. The previous two phases covered larger businesses with annual supply value over BD5 million and BD500,000. Bahrain is the third Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country (after Saudi Arabia and the UAE) to introduce the VAT.
State of Kuwait
Tuesday, 24 December—Kuwait’s Minister of Oil, Dr Khaled Al-Fadhel, and Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, signed an agreement to divide and gradually resume oil production in the shared Neutral Zone oil fields, which could produce up to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), after four years of disagreements.
Wednesday, 25 December—Kuwait’s Prime Minister, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, and Foreign Minister, Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, separately received phone calls from Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, congratulating them on their appointment. They also discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations, the latest regional developments, and Iran’s proposed Hormuz Peace Endeavour Initiative.
Sultanate of Oman
Monday, 23 December—Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, arrived in Oman for a two day visit, where he held talks with several government officials, including Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood Al-Said, Deputy Prime Minister, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, and General Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Numani, Minister of the Royal Office, focusing mainly on enhancing bilateral cooperation and tensions in the Gulf. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif also met in Muscat with a delegation of the Yemeni Tehran-backed Houthis, led by the Houthi Spokesman, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, to discuss the situation in Yemen.
Tuesday, 24 December—The Foreign Ministries of Oman and India held official talks, chaired by Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, and Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s Minister of External Affairs, in Muscat on enhancing economic and trade relations. They witnessed signing of the Maritime Transport Agreement between Oman and India, which will notably allow New Delhi’s Navy to access Oman’s Duqm port. India’s Minister also held talks with some Oman’s officials, including General Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Numani, Minister of the Royal Office, Sayyid Badr bin Saud Al-Busaidy, Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs, and Mohammed bin Nassir Al-Rasbi, Secretary-General at the Defence Ministry.
State of Qatar
Saturday, 21 December—Qatar’s delegation, led by the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Department at the Foreign Ministry, Mohammed bin Yousef bin Jassim Al-Thani, and the European External Action Service (EEAS) held the 2nd Meeting of the Human Rights Working Group in Brussels. They discussed the human rights situation in Qatar, especially concerning the expat workers’ rights.
Tuesday, 24 December—The Chief of Staff of Qatari Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Ghanem bin Shaheen Al-Ghanim, received the Chief of Staff of the French Air Force, General Philippe Lavigne, in Doha, to discuss military cooperation and the ways to enhance it. The same day, Lt Gen Al-Ghanim also met with the US Air National Guard Director, Lieutenant General Leon Scott Rice, to review bilateral ties and cooperation in the military field.
Wednesday, 25 December—The Qatari-Tunisian Joint Military Committee held its third meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff of Qatari Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Ghanem bin Shaheen Al-Ghanim, and Inspector General of the Tunisian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Abdelmoneim Belati. The meeting focused on bilateral military cooperation and ways to develop and boost joint coordination mechanisms.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 22 December—Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Dr Abdullatif Al-Zayani, signed an agreement to establish the GCC’s Unified Military Command Headquarters in Saudi Arabia.
Monday, 23 December—Saudi Arabia’s Justice Minister, Dr Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, banned underage marriages for those under 15 and limited marriages for those between the age of 15 and 18 years with an immediate effect. He instructed the relevant authorities to refer such cases to adequate courts for necessary legal measures in accordance with the Child Protection Law. Authorities violating the law will be also punished by appropriate legal measures.
Wednesday, 25 December—Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, received a phone call from Japan’s Defence Minister, Taro Kono, during which they reviewed bilateral defence cooperation. On 27 December, Japan announced it will send a warship and patrol planes to protect Japanese vessels in the Gulf. In case of an emergency, the Japanese Defence Minister can authorise the use of weapons.
Thursday, 26 December—Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, arrived in Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral ties and cooperation. They also discussed the situation in Kashmir and Qureshi appreciated the Kingdom’s support in tensions with India.
United Arab Emirates
Saturday, 21 December—Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), led the country’s delegation to China to expand bilateral environmental cooperation. On the occasion, MOCCAE and China’s National Engineering Research Centre of JUNCAO Technology at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University signed a letter of intent to promote cooperation in sustainable agriculture and desert farming.
Monday, 23 December—Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received Eritrea’s President, Isaias Afwerki. The two leaders discussed ways to boost bilateral relations and cooperation as well as the latest regional developments.
Monday, 23 December—The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) awarded DP World, the Dubai-based global port developer and operator, a 30-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession for the management and development of the South Container Terminal at the Jeddah Islamic Port. Under the agreement, the DP World will invest around $500 million (USD) to modernise and develop the port as the Kingdom seeks to transform into a global logistics hub by 2030. Moreover, the DP World also plans to develop inland connectivity between Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port and Jeddah and other Saudi cities.
Wednesday, 25 December—The Cabinet of the UAE, chaired by Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, approved the Federal Law on Consumer Protection to strengthen legislation in reaction to rapid advancements in e-commerce and to control price increases. The law will regulate suppliers’, advertisers’ and commercial agents’ work and guarantee the quality of goods and services and the stability of prices.
Friday, 27 December—UAE’s Minister of Tolerance, Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, arrived in Islamabad, where he held separate talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and President, Dr Arif Alvi, on bilateral relations and cooperation and ways to bolster them in various fields, notably investments and economy, culture, energy, tourism and development. The UAE’s Minister reiterated the importance of tolerance, co-existence and pluralism.