GULF IN REVIEW

23 - 28 February 2020

by

Nikola Zukalová

Kingdom of Bahrain

Wednesday, 26 February—Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, addressed the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, highlighting the Kingdom’s commitment to continue progress in the protection of human rights and pointed to Bahrain’s initiatives in the field, such as the King Hamad Centre for Peaceful Coexistence and the Bahrain Declaration on religious freedom and peaceful coexistence. On the sidelines Al-Zayani met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to discuss cooperation on promotion and protection of human rights.

 

Thursday, 27 February—Bahrain’s Health Minister, Faeqa bint Saeed Al-Saleh, attended the meeting of Arab Health Ministers in Cairo, which discussed the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and called for an emergency meeting of experts to review plans and exchange expertise to combat the virus during the second week of March. The joint statement highlighted the need to implement preventive measures to reduce infection rates, taking into consideration the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) protocols.

State of Kuwait

Tuesday, 25 February—On 25 and 26 February, Kuwait celebrated the 59th National Day, when it gained independence from the United Kingdom, the 29th Liberation Day, marking the end of the Iraqi invasion in 1991, and the 14th anniversary of Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah's accession to power. The national celebrations were cancelled as a precautionary measure due to the outbreak of Coronavirus.

 

Wednesday, 26 February—During an extraordinary session, Kuwait’s Cabinet approved several measures to face the Coronavirus  (COVID-19). It suspended all educational facilities and centres until 12 March, tasked the Kuwait Supply Company with supplying sufficient amount of face-masks to local market, ensuring provision of sterilisation products, urging all citizens and expats to avoid gatherings and requested a specialised global medical team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to assist the country.


Sultanate of Oman

Sunday, 23 February—Oman’s Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Al-Said addressed the Omani citizens in a Royal Speech, vowing to continue Sultan Qaboos’ drive towards regional peace and highlighting several priorities: the importance of youth and education sector, restructuring the administration apparatus, modernising laws and legislation, reducing public debt and the fiscal deficit, focus on progress in innovation, artificial intelligence, and advanced technology.

 

Tuesday, 25 February—The Royal Oman Police and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency inked a Memorandum of Understanding on maritime security cooperation and exchange of information. The document was signed by Assistant Inspector General of Police and Customs for Operations, Major General Hamad bin Sulaiman Al-Hatmi, and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Oman, Ahsan Wagan.

 

Thursday, 27 February—The European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula (DARP), led by its Chair, Hannah Neumann, met with several Omani senior officials, notably Deputy Prime Minister, Sayyid Fahad bin Mahmood Al-Said, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs, Badr bin Saud Al-Busaidi, and Head of the Shura Council, Khalid bin Hilal Al-Ma’wali. They discussed expanding relations between the European Union and Oman, the Sultanate’s request on visa exemption, inter-parliamentary cooperation and regional peace and stability.


State of Qatar

Monday, 24 February—Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, an his accompanying delegation, visited Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria. During the meeting with Algeria’s recently elected President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, they discussed enhancing bilateral ties, particularly in economic and investment fields, and Libya. The talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman focused on bolstering bilateral ties, notably in energy, infrastructure and investments, activating the Jordanian-Qatari Higher Committee and the Palestinian cause. The meeting with Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied, reviewed some investment projects in Tunisia and regional crises, notably in neighbouring Libya.

 

Thursday, 27 February—Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, met in Doha to discuss developing bilateral cooperation, notably in energy, infrastructure and economy, and the latest regional developments, notably the US-Taliban peace agreement and the situation in Kashmir. On the occasion, the two countries signed agreements in trade, investments and tourism.

 

Thursday, 27 February—The Italian shipbuilding company, Fincantieri, launched the first Doha-class corvette, Al-Zubarah, in Muggiano, Italy.  Al-Zubarah will be capable of maritime security missions, surveillance, air defence and search and rescue missions. The vessel, which is the first of the four corvettes ordered by the Qatari Ministry of Defence within the national naval acquisition programme, is expected to be delivered in 2021.


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Sunday, 23 February—The meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and the G20 International Taxation Symposium were held under the Saudi G20 presidency in Riyadh. The meetings discussed tax transparency and tax issues arising from the digitalisation of economy, cryptocurrencies, inclusiveness, sustainable infrastructure financing, fighting tax evasion and possible effects of the coronavirus on the global economy, among others.

 

Sunday, 23 February—The Saudi-led coalition naval forces foiled an attack in the southern Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthis, using a remote controlled booby-trapped boat launched from Hodeidah, and found several mines in the Bab El-Mandeb Strait. Additionally, the Coalition air defence intercepted ballistic missiles and drones launched from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

 

Sunday, 23 February—Saudi Aramco will invest $110 billion (USD) in developing the Kingdom’s largest non-associated gas field, Jafurah, in the Eastern Province, which holds an estimated 5.7 trillion cubic metres of wet gas. The production is expected to start in 2024.

 

Sunday, 23 February—The European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula (DARP), led by its chair Hannah Neumann, held talks with several senior Saudi officials, including Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, to discuss EU-Saudi cooperation and regional situation, and the President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, Dr Awwad Alawwad, to review Saudi efforts and progress in the field of human rights, including women empowerment, and Assistant Speaker of the Shura Council, Dr Yahya Al-Samaan, to strengthen EU-Saudi inter-parliamentary relations.

 

Tuesday, 25 February—A series of Royal Orders announced the establishment of new ministries: Ministry of Investment, Tourism, Sports and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. The Ministry of Commerce and Investment became the Ministry of Commerce, while the General Investment Authority (SAGIA) was renamed the Ministry of Investment, led by former Energy Minister, Khalid Al-Falih. The General Sports Authority was transformed into the Ministry of Sports, headed by Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Saud, and the Ministry of Civil Service and the Ministry of Labour merged into the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, led by Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi.

 

Wednesday 26 February—President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, and President of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, visited Riyadh and held separate talks with the Kingdom’s officials, notably King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, on ways to enhance bilateral ties in various fields and regional developments. Mauritania thanked Saudi Arabia for its support to the Group of Five (G5) in Sahel and they signed four agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, notably in vocational and technical training, cultural cooperation and civil service. The main focus of the Algerian visit was  on Libya and bolstering bilateral ties.


United Arab Emirates

Sunday, 23 February—Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Imran Khan, received UAE’s Minister of Tolerance, Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to enhance it. Pakistan expressed deep appreciation for the UAE’s help during the country’s economic crisis.

 

Monday, 24 February—Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and French Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, discussed bolstering bilateral ties, seeking to build on existing partnerships, notably in trade and economic field. The meeting was also attended by Saif bin Zayed, UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Khaldoon Khalifa Al-Mubarak, CEO of Mubadala.

 

Monday, 24 February—UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Obaid bin Humaid Al-Tayer, met with the United States’ Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, in the presence of Mubarak Rashed Al-Mansoori, Governor of the UAE Central Bank, in Abu Dhabi. They discussed opportunities for increasing bilateral cooperation between the UAE and the US, particularly in the financial and investment sectors.

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