GULF IN REVIEW

30 June - 05 July 2019

by

Nikola Zukalová

Kingdom of Bahrain
 

Wednesday, 3 July—Manama hosted the 2019 Middle East and North Africa Regional High-Level Forum on the Green Economy in collaboration with the World Green Economy Organization and the United Nations. The three-day event stressed the successful regional  examples of green economy solutions and strategies implemented to achieve the UN sustainable development goals. The Executive Director of Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Environment, Dr Mohammed Mubarak Bin-Daina, called for amending legislation and preparing for the transition process to the green economy, which, he said, assists also in maintaining economic growth and elimination of poverty. On the sidelines, Bahrain signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Egypt on environmental protection, climate affairs and nature conservation.

 

Wednesday, 3 July—As part of the efforts to keep up with the new technologies, Bahrain announced it will join the United Kingdom in testing the guidelines for the deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the public sector, designed by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution. They will be the first two countries in the world to test the AI guidelines, which will then assist governments around the world in understanding and implementing the AI in their everyday work.

State of Kuwait

Thursday, 4 July—During the 14th Meeting of the UK-Kuwait Joint Steering Group, the two countries agreed on an action plan for the following 6 months, which assumes enhancing cooperation in various sectors, including trade, investments, defence, cyber security, aviation security, immigration, environment, education and health. Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Khaled Al-Jarallah, and the UK's Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, co-chaired the Session and witnessed the signing of several agreements, notably on military cooperation and training.

 

Thursday, 4 July—Kuwait and Saudi Arabia reportedly made a breakthrough in the talks on the shared Neutral Zone. The two countries may be moving closer to restoring oil production at the fields in the shared area due to an advancement on the sovereignty issues over the Zone, which prevented an agreement in the past. The fields, which have capacity of 500,000 barrels per day, stopped the production in 2014 over a spat between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Sultanate of Oman
 

Monday, 1 July—Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, and Badr Al-Busaidi, Secretary General of Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held separate talks with Pascale Baeriswyl, State Secretary at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. They discussed bilateral ties between Oman and Switzerland and ways to enhance them particularly in political and economic fields. They also focused on the regional developments and efforts to strengthen political dialogue to achieve security and stability.

 

Wednesday, 3 July—A delegation from Oman’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, led by the the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Qais bin Mohammed Al-Yousef, participated alongside other Arab countries in the Arab-British Economic Summit 2019 held in London. The Summit aimed at enhancing economic cooperation and increase bilateral trade between the Arab countries and the United Kingdom. The UK was chosen as Oman’s first largest investor following the recently issued four new laws aimed at boosting foreign investments in the Sultanate.

State of Qatar

Thursday, 4 July—Brussels hosted the first Senior Official Meeting between the European External Action Service and Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, co-chaired by the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Helga Schmid, and Qatar’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi. The Meeting launched the implementation of the Cooperation Arrangement inked between the two sides on 7 March 2018. The high-level political consultations discussed the EU-Qatar ties and strengthening of their cooperation, notably in security and counterterrorism fields. They also focused on the recent developments in the Gulf, the Middle East Peace Process, the situation in Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Libya  as well as Qatar’s commitment to provide €66.5 million to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism over 5 years.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 29 June—Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, attended the G20 Summit of the 20 world’s largest economies in Osaka, Japan. Speaking on the tensions in the Gulf, he assured the leaders that the Kingdom does not seek war with Iran and stressed the need for the international community to take tougher stance on Tehran and its aggressive policies to prevent further escalation. Mohammad bin Salman agreed on deepening trade, energy security and counterterrorism ties with India, held talks notably with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, US President, Donald Trump, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, and Emperor Naruhito of Japan. Riyadh will host the next G20 Summit between 21 and 22 November 2020 with topics such as food security, access to water and energy, environment, healthcare, education, and digital economy, on the top of the agenda.

 

Tuesday, 2 July—Saudi Arabia will continue the preparations for the initial public offering (IPO) of the world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Aramco. The Kingdom’s Oil Minister, Khalid Al-Falih, said that after the acquisition of a 70% stake in the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), bought for $69 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in March, and a successful debt offering earlier this year, the Kingdom can proceed with the planning of the IPO, scheduled for 2020 or 2021. The IPO was announced in 2016 as part of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 economic plan before being partially suspended. The Kingdom seeks to value Aramco for $2 trillion, which would allow it to sell a 5% stake in the company for $100 billion, making it the largest IPO in the history.

 

Tuesday, 2 July—During the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC members, known collectively as the OPEC+, in Vienna, the 24 Ministers agreed to extend the voluntary oil production cuts for additional 9 months until 31 March 2020. The cuts by 1.2 million barrels per day were in effect since the previous Ministerial in December 2018. On the occasion, the Energy Ministers also endorsed a draft of the Charter of Cooperation, which, if approved by the national governments, will formalise the relationship and long-term cooperation between the OPEC and non-OPEC countries.

 

Wednesday, 3 July—The state-owned defence company, Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), signed a collaboration agreement with the Paramount Group, a South African global defence and aerospace company, on the development of technologies and capabilities across the land, sea, and air domains, as well as system integration. The deal is in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal to increase the domestic share of military expenditure to 50% by 2030. 

 

Friday, 5 July—Saudi Arabia’s air defence forces intercepted armed drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen towards Jazan. It is yet another attempt in the latest series of Houthi attacks on the Kingdom’s civilian areas.

United Arab Emirates

Monday, 1 July—The Dubai-based DP World, one of the world’s largest port operators, acquired the Topaz Energy & Marine, an energy-focused marine logistics company, for $1.08 billion from Oman-listed Renaissance Services and Standard Chartered Private Equity. Topaz, with its 118 vessels, operates predominantly in the Caspian Sea, the Middle East and West Africa. The new partnership will help the DP World to expand its operations into new business areas, such as marine logistics services, notably in the Caspian Sea, and increase transit volumes through Azerbaijan within the East-West trade corridor.

 

Tuesday, 2 July—The UAE will allow 100% ownership of local businesses for foreigners in 122 economic activities across 13 sectors in a bid to attract international investors. The decision on the foreign ownership percentage in each sector will be left to the individual Emirates. Until now the percentage was fixed by the federal government at 49%.

 

Thursday, 4 July—The UAE has reportedly began slow withdrawal of its troops and equipment from Yemen amid the rising tensions with Iran in the Gulf.

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