GULF IN REVIEW
22 -27 September 2019
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 23 September—King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa arrived at Jeddah, where he held talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. During the meeting, they discussed the attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities, along with the regional tensions, Iran’s activities, and joint efforts to enhance security and stability in the Gulf. King Hamad strongly condemned the attack and stressed Bahrain’s full solidarity with and support for Saudi Arabia.
Wednesday, 25 September—Bahrain sold bonds for $2 billion in a two-part deal, the first US dollar bond issuance since it obtained a $10 billion financial assistance from its Gulf neighbours in 2018 as the Kingdom undergoes a series of reforms, such as the introduction of 5% VAT, and aims to balance its budget by 2023.
Tuesday, 24 September—The Undersecretary for International Affairs at Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, held talks with several United Nations officials in which he stressed the need to resolve disputes peacefully. For their part, the Assistant Secretary General for Military Affairs and UN Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Carlos H Loitey praised the UN-Bahraini partnership and the Kingdom’s efforts to maintain regional security and stability. The Undersecretary General of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office (UNCTO), Vladimir Voronkov, praised the Bahrain’s efforts to counter terrorism and extremism, while the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Alexandre Zouev, appreciated the Kingdom’s accomplishments in maintaining international peace and security and expressed interest in enhancing cooperation.
Friday, 27 September—On the occasion of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, held several high-level meetings, which included signing an agreement on mutual exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic, special and service passports with Hungary and Indonesia, Memorandum of understanding on political consultations with Mongolia’s Foreign Ministry, establishment of Diplomatic Relations with the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and Republic of San Marino and creation of a joint committee for bilateral cooperation with Kenya and Indonesia.
State of Kuwait
Sunday, 22 September—Kuwait and Norway signed a Memorandum of Understanding on holding consultations between their Foreign Ministries. The document was signed by Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, and Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, who also discussed boosting bilateral ties, coordination between the two countries on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, where they were both recently elected, and Norway’s candidacy for non-permanent member seat at the UN Security Council.
Wednesday, 25 September—Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, attended a meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the United States, Jordan and Iraq, in New York. The meeting, called by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, aimed to strengthen ties and cooperation between the parties in various domains to ensure security and stability. It also explored ways how to confront Iran’s policies along with other regional challenges, and support Iraq’s security, in addition to discussing the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA).
Friday, 27 September—Speaking at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Kuwait’s Prime Minister, Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, reiterated his country’s offer to host another round of peace talks under the auspices of the UN between the Yemeni warring parties to reach a political solution. He also called on Iran to take serious confidence building measures to begin a dialogue, deescalate the situation in the Gulf and ensure safety of regional maritime navigation.
Sultanate of Oman
Thursday, 26 September—Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, co-chaired the meeting between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the EU on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly meeting, attended by the GCC Foreign Ministers, the GCC Secretary General, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, and the European External Action Service (EEAS) Secretary General, Helga Schmid, among others. They discussed EU-GCC relations and prospects for enhancing them along with recent developments and situation in the Gulf.
Thursday, 26 September—Secretary General of Oman’s Foreign Ministry, Badr Al-Busaidi, visited Germany, where he held talks with several officials, notably Claudia Roth, Vice-President of German Bundestag, to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation along with various issues of common concern, such as climate change and security. During Al-Busaidi’s meeting with the State Secretary of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, Andreas Michaelis, they focused on the tensions and other issues of common concern in the Gulf as well as relations between Oman and Germany and ways to improve them.
State of Qatar
Monday, 23 September—Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani announced that the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha will be fully environmentally friendly and carbon neutral because the stadiums will run on solar energy and use water and energy saving technologies. The stadiums are currently being constructed but Qatar struggles to implement changes to labour laws and faces criticism from groups such as Amnesty International over the treatment of the migrant workers, who build the facilities for the Cup, as many of them are forced to live in dire conditions and claim unpaid wages, despite the government’s promises of reforms.
Tuesday, 24 September—The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York to discuss bilateral relations and issues related to Gulf regional and international stability. It was the Emir’s third meeting with a European leader in less than a week, after talks with France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, in Paris and United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in London, signifying boost in Doha’s efforts to strengthen ties with major European countries.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Monday, 23 September—Saudi Arabia celebrated 89th Saudi National Day, which commemorates the unification of the Hejaz and Nejd Kingdoms and establishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by its first King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, father of the current King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Monday, 23 September—France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a joint statement, condemning the 14 September attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, and blaming Iran for them. They affirm that the attacks, which have decreased the Kingdom’s daily crude production by 50%, concern also other countries, not only Saudi Arabia, and call for deescalation of the regional situation. The trio also urged Iran to comply with the JCPOA, aka Iran Nuclear Deal, and to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme, regional security and its missile programme.
Thursday, 26 September—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, met separately with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, to discuss the Gulf tensions and the attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities on 14 September, along with bilateral relations and ways to improve them. Mahdi stressed Baghdad’s solidarity with the Kingdom and support for its security and stability, while King Salman condemned recent bombing in Karbala.
Friday, 27 September—Saudi Arabia will start issuing temporary tourist visa for tourists from 49 countries from 28 September. The tourists will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for 90 days in one year and they can re-enter the Kingdom more times for 440 Saudi Riyals. There will be no restrictions on unaccompanied women, modest dress will be required but no abaya for women. Alcohol will remain banned and the access to the Muslim holy cities of Makkah and Medina is restricted for 'non-Muslims'. The Kingdom hopes that tourism will make up for up to 10% of its GDP by 2030.
Friday, 27 September—The Red Wave 2 joint drill, which includes naval forces from seven Red Sea countries, started Sunday and finished Friday in Jeddah. The participating forces come from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Yemen, and Somalia. The exercise aimed to enhance the maritime security of the countries bordering the Red Sea, protect territorial waters and strengthen the countries’ military cooperation and raise combat readiness.
Friday, 27 September—The Pentagon will send four Sentinel Radar units, a Patriot missile defence battery and about 200 support personnel to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s defence capabilities of its critical military and civilian infrastructure following the 14 September attacks on Saudi Aramco's oil facilities. Additionally, two Patriot batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system’s operators and maintainers, antiballistic missile defence system remain ready for deployment in necessary.
United Arab Emirates
Sunday, 22 September—Several non-Muslim places of worship in Abu Dhabi received for the first time official legal status, which will facilitate them functioning and reach for assistance. Those places include 17 churches, a Hindu temple and five other places of worship. This move comes few days after the UAE unveiled plans to build the Abrahamic Family House, which will consist of a mosque, a church and a synagogue to celebrate religious tolerance and the three Abrahamic religions—Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Tuesday, 25 September—Hazza Al-Mansouri became the first UAE national sent to space and the first Arab astronaut at the International Space Station.
Tuesday, 24 September—Abu Dhabi sold $10 billion of bonds in a three-part deal in its first international bond offering in two years, taking advantage of its strong credit rating and low cost of debt insurance against default.