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The Euro-Gulf Monitor 31 March – 6 April 2023

BY Veronica Stigliani & Elen'Alba Vitiello

5 Top Points

  1. Finland officially joined NATO.
  2. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister met with his Iranian counterpart in Beijing.
  3. Bahrain’s Minister of Industry and Commerce received the UK Chief Negotiator for the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement.
  4. The EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia met with the General of the GCC to further implement EU-GCC strategic partnership.
  5. Oman’s Foreign Minister met with UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Al-Fateh Grand Mosque in Bahrain

Kingdom of Bahrain ​ Kingdom of Bahrain-img

Monday, 3 April–Bahrain’s Cabinet, chaired by the Crown Prince and prime minister Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, launched the Golden License, which aims to attract local and international companies for large-scale investment projects, and create jobs. It is part of the Economic Recovery Plan, Bahrain’s fiscal and economic reforms blueprint introduced in 2021.

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State of Kuwait Sultanate of Oman-img

Sunday, 2 April–Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Oil Minister, Bader Hamed Yousef Al-Mulla, announced the implementation of a voluntary cut of 128,000 oil barrels a day from May to December 2023, aimed at supporting the stability of the oil market. The decision was made in coordination with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC participating countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Algeria, and Russia.

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Sultanate of Oman Sultanate of Oman-img

Monday, 3 April–Oman’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion launched a new electronic service on the Invest Easy Portal, to enable private investment in the sector of private school, international schools, and foreign schools. As stated by the Director General of Trade, Mubarak bin Mohammed Al-Dhuhani, it is in line with Oman’s National Programme for Digital Transformation.

Wednesday, 5 April–Oman’s Undersecretary for Administrative, Financial, and Planning Affairs at the Ministry of Health, Fatima Mohammed Al-Ajmi, attended the 5th Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, held in Geneva. The forum, themed ‘Protecting, safeguarding, and investing in the health and care workforce’, examined solutions, investments, and multi-sectoral partnerships to address health and care workforce challenges and advance health.

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State of Qatar State of Qatar-img

Tuesday, 4 April–Qatar’s Investment Promotion Agency (IPA Qatar) launched the Invest Qatar Gateway, the first digital platform for investors. It provides a free online resource for foreign investors and companies, and facilitates the search for new business partners and opportunities.

Wednesday, 5 April–French TotalEnergies has invited QatarEnergy to hold a 25% share in Iraq’s Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP), in agreement with the Iraqi government. TotalEnergies has already signed a multibillion-dollar deal and picks up a 30% stake in the GGIP.

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Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-img

Tuesday, 4 April–Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, announced he accepted an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia. On 2 April, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal Bin Farhan, held a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir Abdollahian. The moves are part of the latest reconciliation effort between the two states after the signing of the China-brokered agreement restoring diplomatic relations.

United Arab Emirates-img

United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates-img

Tuesday, 4 April–The UAE President, Mohamed bin Zayed, and Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held a phone call during which they agreed to meet in the near future. During the call, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to advancing their peace agreement.

The EU Corner

Thursday, 30 March–The European Union signed a 40 million euros worth agreement with Egypt, to improve grain production in Egypt through the Kafi project, to be implemented by the Italian Agency of Development Cooperation (IADC), funded by the EU’s Food and Resilience Facility. The project will improve sustainable agricultural production and strengthen food security in the region.

Thursday, 30 March–UAE’s Minister of State, Shakhboot bin Nathan Al-Nahyan, met with European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, to discuss ongoing issues in the Horn of Africa, and the UAE’s COP28 presidency.

Friday, 31 March–The Swedish Presidency reaches its half point. During its presidency, the EU adopted a tenth sanctions package against Russia, reached a historic agreement to jointly procure ammunition to Ukraine, appointed a working group to investigate how frozen Russian assets cam be used to rebuild Ukraine, initiated a donor’s conference to support people affected by the Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, and concluded negotiation on the e-Evidence.

Monday, 3 April–EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Patrick Simonnet, met with the General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, to further implement the strategic partnership between the GCC countries and the EU under the Joint Cooperation Program 2022-2027. The cooperation aims at EU-GCC engagement, facilitating annual dialogue sessions on multilateral issues, such as green transition and humanitarian action.

Tuesday, 4 April–Bahrain’s Ambassador to Belgium, Abdulla bin Faisal Al-Doseri, meets with the Head of Cabinet for the European Commission’s Executive Vice President for An Economy that Works for People, and Commissioner for Trade, Michael Hager.

Tuesday, 4 April–Finland officially became the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The European Union’s High Representative, Josep Borrell, welcomed Finland’s accession during a Ministerial Meeting in Brussels.

Tuesday, 4 April–The 10th EU-US Energy Council took place in Brussels, chaired by European Union High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell, European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Deputy Secretary of Energy David M. Turk. On this occasion, Josep Borrell and Anthony Blinken had a bilateral discussion ahead of Borrell’s visit to China. Both sides expressed the urge to revive peace resolution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, together with partners in the Arab world, by building on the Arab Peace Initiative and adding European peace contributions to it.

Key official visits

Monday, 3 April–Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Salman, received Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, in Jeddah. The meeting focused on bilateral relations and on ways to boost cooperation in several fields. The two leaders also discussed the regional situation, most notably Syria’s ongoing process of normalisation with various countries across the area.

Monday, 3 April–Oman’s Foreign Minister, Sayyid Badr Hamad Al-Busaidi, met with UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly, to review bilateral relations. The meeting also explored opportunities for new partnership and investment in renewable energy projects, technical education and innovation. The two sides also exchanged opinions on regional issues, and on ways to address international crises.

Monday, 3 April–The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, met with Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and with Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, in Athens. The meeting aimed to review bilateral cooperation and ways to strengthen it in several fields, including trade, investment, development, renewable energy and food security.

Tuesday, 4 April–Bahrain’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Abdullah bin Adel Fakhro received the UK Chief Negotiator for the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Tom Wintle, in Manama. The two sides expressed their willingness to enhance bilateral economic cooperation, in a bid to achieve common goals and raising rates of trade and investment exchange.

Tuesday 4 April–Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Mansour Al-Otaibi, received Ukraine Ambassador to Kuwait, Oleksandr Balanutsa. Both sides discussed bilateral relations and ways to strengthen them, and the latest regional and international developments.

Tuesday 4 April–Saudi Arabia’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Waleed El-Khereiji, met with Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Philippe Lazzarini. They reviewed Saudi Arabia’s permanent efforts in supporting the Palestinians, and discussed aspects of cooperation between the Kingdom and the Agency.

Wednesday, 5 April–On the sidelines of the International action to help Lebanon meeting, in Paris, Qatar’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Khulaifi, met with the head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, the head of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, the head of the Maranda Movement, the former Minister Sleiman Franjieh, in presence of Qatar’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Ibrahim AL-Sahlawi, MP Tony Franjieh, and former Minister, Roni Araiji. The discussion focused on the general situation in Lebanon, and its latest developments.

Thursday, 6 April–Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Faisal bin Farhan, met with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, in Beijing. During the talks, both sides stressed the importance of following up on the implementation of the Beijing Agreement, signed 11 March 2023, to restore diplomatic ties, resume flights and bilateral visits of official and private sector delegations, and issue visas for citizens.

Thursday, 6 April–Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense, Khalid bin Salman, received President of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, in Riyadh. The meeting focused on recent developments in Yemen, and on ways to achieve security and stability in the country and support all efforts to reach a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

Thursday, 6 April–Saudi Arabia and Morocco held the third meeting of the Political Consultation and the Follow-up committees, in Riyadh. The Saudi delegation was headed by Assistant Minister of State for African Countries Affairs, Sami bin Abdullah Al-Saleh, while the Moroccan side was headed by the Director General of Bilateral Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Abroad, Fouad Yazough. The two sides discussed ways to enhance historical and strategic relations in various fields and exchanged views on several regional and international issues of mutual interest.