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The Euro-Gulf Monitor 10 – 16 February 2023

BY Veronica Stigliani & Elen'Alba Vitiello

5 Top Points

  1. The first Bahraini-Qatari Follow-up Committee meeting was held in Riyadh.
  2. The first Saudi female astronaut will be sent to the International Space Station during the second quarter of 2023.
  3. Qatar’s Emir visited Türkiye, Italy and France.
  4. The EU, Arab League and Saudi Arabia discussed ways to revive the Middle East Peace Process in Brussels.
  5. A senior-level US delegation travelled to Oman and Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security and the Iran nuclear file.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Al-Fateh Grand Mosque in Bahrain

Kingdom of Bahrain ​ Kingdom of Bahrain-img

Tuesday, 14 February—Bahrain celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the National Action Charter, which introduced wide-ranging reforms and turned the country into a constitutional monarchy, under the leadership of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. On 14th February 2001, the changes were approved in a referendum by 98.4% people.

kuwait-img

State of Kuwait Sultanate of Oman-img

Monday, 13 February‒Kuwait hosted the Invest Saudi Forum aiming to strengthen Saudi-Kuwaiti economic, trade, and investment ties. The event gathered Ministers, officials and company representatives from both countries, including Kuwait’s Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology, Mazen Saad Al-Nahedh, and Saudi Minister of Investment, Khalid Al-Falih.

oman-img

Sultanate of Oman Sultanate of Oman-img

Wednesday, 15 February−Oman’s Cabinet will set up benefits for low-income Omanis, following directives of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said. The social protection law is intended to assist low-income earners on several fronts, including the provision of child benefits. Financial assistance will also be granted to pensioners, orphans, widowers and citizens with disabilities.

qatar-img

State of Qatar State of Qatar-img

Monday 13 February—Qatar and Bahrain discussed steps to boost cooperation and repair bilateral ties in line with the 2021 Al-Ula Declaration during the first Bahraini-Qatari Follow-up Committee meeting, held at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh. The two countries’ delegations were led by Abdulla bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Undersecretary for Political Affairs at Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry, and Ahmed bin Hassan Al-Hammadi, Secretary-General of Qatar’s Foreign Ministry.

Saudi-arabia-img

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-img

Sunday, 12 February−Saudi Arabia announced that the first Saudi female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi, and a Saudi male astronaut, Ali Al-Qarni, will be sent to the International Space Station during the second quarter of 2023. The astronauts will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission, in a bid to empower national capabilities in human spaceflight.

United Arab Emirates-img

United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates-img

Sunday, 12 February−The UAE’s Central Bank launched a new programme, named Financial Infrastructure Transformation Programme (FIT), to accelerate digital transformation in the financial services sector and the new Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which will be used for both domestic and cross-border payments. The initiative includes a domestic card scheme, an instant payments platform, financial cloud and supervisory technology.

The EU Corner

Monday, 13 February‒EU’s High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission, Josep Borrel, organised a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Aboul Gheit. They discussed ways to revive the Middle East Peace Process in line with the Arab Peace Initiative. They agreed to create a working group to develop proposals to engage with members of the Arab League, the EU and international partners.

Monday, 13 February‒The European Union and Silatech, a Qatar-based initiative aiming at create jobs and economic opportunities for young people in the Arab world, signed a new €10 million (EUR) four-year agreement to continue to support the “Support to Youth Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion” project that aims to improve youth economic empowerment in Yemen to more than 40,000 young people in different governorates.

Key official visits

Friday, 10 February—Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, was on an official visit to Washington, DC to discuss efforts to revive the Iran Nuclear Deal, the situation in Palestine and Afghanistan and rescue and relief operations and aid delivery to Turkey and northern Syria. He met with several US officials, including the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley.

Sunday, 12 February—Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, travelled to Italy and France to discuss ways to boost bilateral cooperation in security and defence, business and energy. He held talks with the two countries’ leaders, Emmanuel Macron and Sergio Mattarella, respectively. Prior to the European visit, Qatar’s Emir stopped in Türkiye, being the first foreign leader to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since last week’s devastating earthquake.

Sunday, 12 February−UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, travelled to Turkey and Syria to discuss the repercussions of the earthquake, which hit the two countries. In Türkiye, he met with Minister of Interior, Suleyman Soylu, and in Damascus, he met with Syria’s President, Bashar Al-Assad. Together with expressing the UAE’s solidarity with the Turkish and Syrian people, the Emirati Minister enquired about how Abu Dhabi could provide more assistance to the affected areas.

Sunday, 12 February−UK Minister of State for the Middle East, Tariq Ahmad, undertook a tour of Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In Bahrain, Lord Ahmad co-chaired the 15th meeting of the UK-Bahrain Joint Working Group. In Kuwait, he co-chaired the 19th UK-Kuwait Joint Steering Group alongside Kuwait’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mansour Al-Otaibi. In Saudi Arabia, he announced the 12 finalists for the UK Alumni Awards 2022-23, praising UK-Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in the field of education.

Sunday, 12 February−The UAE and Iraq agreed to develop a framework governing bilateral trade, during a meeting between the UAE President, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shiaa’ Al-Sudani, in Abu Dhabi. They agreed to develop the UAE-Iraq relationship in a comprehensive partnership to achieve broader economic integration, and discussed strengthening cooperation in the fields of health, tourism, culture and sports.

Monday, 13 February−The World Government Summit 2023 kicked off in Dubai, under the theme “Shaping Future Governments”. On the side-lines of the Summit, several high-level meetings took place. UAE President, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, received his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Yemeni Prime Minister, Maeen Abdulmalik, Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, and Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, among others. Albania and the UAE signed a cooperation agreement in government modernisation.

Tuesday, 14 February−UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, travelled to Washington, DC, for a meeting with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. The meeting aimed to discuss the Negev process and efforts to strengthen ties between Arab states and Israel in line with the Abraham Accords. They also discussed regional security amid the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, as well as the reconstruction of the Turkish and Syrian regions affected by last week’s earthquake.

Tuesday, 14 February−A high level US government delegation travelled to Oman and Saudi Arabia, to meet representatives from GCC governments to discuss regional security and the Iran nuclear file. The delegation included Special Envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, US Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Christopher Landberg, and representatives of US Air Force Central Command and the Defence Security Cooperation Agency.

Tuesday, 14 February−Oman’s Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, held a meeting with the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Muscat. The meeting focused on addressing challenges in the global economy and discussed ways to boost international trade. The event was attended by Oman Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion, Qais bin Mohammed Al-Yousef, and by Senior Adviser to WTO Director General, Eloy Lauro.

Wednesday, 15 February—Hungary’s President, Katalin Novák, arrived in Bahrain on a three-day official visit during which she will meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa to discus bilateral relations and cooperation.

Wednesday, 15 February—Croatia’s Director General for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Petar Mihatov, met with Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Lolwah bint Rashid Al-Khater, in Doha. They discussed Qatari-Croatian relations, the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and the latest developments in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, 15 February—Schahina Gambir, Member of Germany’s Bundestag (the Federal Parliament), travelled to Qatar to discuss Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan. She held talks with Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Lolwah bint Rashid Al-Khater, to discuss Germany-Qatari cooperation and ways to enhance them as well as the latest developments in Afghanistan, in the presence of Germany’s Ambassador to Qatar, Claudius Fischbach, and Germany’s Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan, Helmut Kulitz.