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The Euro-Gulf Monitor 6 – 12 January 2023

BY Veronica Stigliani & Elen'Alba Vitiello

5 Top Points

  1. Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, the UAE and the US attended the Negev Forum Steering Committee and Working Groups Meeting in Abu Dhabi.
  2. The Netherlands seeks to boost cooperation with the UAE and Qatar amid Foreign Minister’s visit.
  3. The UN and Swedish Special Envoys for Yemen met with Omani officials to discuss efforts to end the Yemeni crisis.
  4. The Kuwaiti government formed a strategic alliance with Google Cloud to support digital transformation.
  5. The EEAS Secretary-General summoned Iran’s Ambassador to condemn the death sentences in connection with the ongoing protests in Iran.

‘Round and About the Gulf

Al-Fateh Grand Mosque in Bahrain

Kingdom of Bahrain ​ Kingdom of Bahrain-img

Tuesday, 10 January—Bahrain’s government announced new measures to help tackle growing global inflation, which include financial support and the temporary suspension of certain fees, such as an additional month of financial support from the Ministry of Social Development for low-income families in January and a three-month suspension of industrial land fees for food storage facilities. Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, directed officials to develop ‘urgent plans and procedures to stabilise prices and ensure the availability of commodities.’​

Tuesday, 10 January‒The Bahrain-based international investment manager, Investcorp, acquired a warehouse in Saudi Arabia, as the first move of its plan to invest up to $1 billion (0.9 billion EUR) in the GCC real estate market over the next five years. Investcorp’s initiative aims to strengthen the company’s position as a reliable partner for countries to sustain growth in the logistic and industrial sector.

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State of Kuwait Sultanate of Oman-img

Monday, 9 January‒The Kuwaiti government formed a strategic alliance with Google Cloud to support comprehensive digital transformation in all government and state-run bodies. The deal will help the Kuwaiti government benefit from Google Cloud technology and its experience in data analysis, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and others in order to achieve digital transformation, which is a main part of Kuwait Vision 2035. Google Cloud also plans to establish a local office in Kuwait and operate a cloud region in the country.

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Sultanate of Oman Sultanate of Oman-img

Wednesday, 11 January‒The UK energy major, Shell, signed several liquefied natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen agreements with Oman’s Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Oman OQ and Oman LNG. This includes the Letter of Intent between the Ministry of Energy and Minerals and Oman Shell company to explore opportunities for the production of Liquefied Synthetic Gas (LSG) in Oman, the signed term sheet between Oman LNG and Shell International Trading Middle East for the off-take of 0.8 million tons of LNG per annum from 2025 to 2035, and the signed partnership agreement for Developing Green Hydrogen in Oman between OQ and Shell International, which acquired a 35% stake in the Green Energy Oman (GEO) project.

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State of Qatar State of Qatar-img

Sunday, 8 January‒The state-owned QatarEnergy signed a $6 billion (around 5.6 billion EUR) investment deal with Chevron Phillips Chemical US to build a plant in the Ras Laffan Petrochemicals Complex, which is expected to start production in 2026 and will include an ethane cracker and two high-density polyethylene derivative units. According to Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Qatar’s Energy Minister and the CEO of QatarEnergy, it will not only facilitate further expansion in Qatar’s downstream and petrochemical sectors, but it will also reinforce the country’s integrated position as a major global player in the upstream, LNG, and downstream sectors.

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Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-img

Monday, 9 January‒Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced the rules for the registration for the Hajj pilgrimage, opened last week. Priority will be given to those who have not made the pilgrimage before, possible only for those who hold a dedicated pilgrimage visa or have residency in Saudi Arabia. The Ministry also announced that the country will remove Covid-19 restrictions for Hajj and welcome back pre-pandemic numbers of pilgrims.

Monday, 9 January‒Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, announced the $50 billion USD (46.5 billion EUR) project to develop Diriyah, the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the Public Investment Fund’s fifth giga-project, after NEOM, Red Sea, Qiddiya, and Roshn. Giga-projects, selected for their cultural and historical value, aim to drive economic growth and diversification in Saudi Arabia, while creating new investment opportunities.

United Arab Emirates-img

United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates-img

Friday, 6 January‒A UAE aid plane delivered to Poland a batch of household electricity generators for Ukraine. It is the second batch brought to Ukraine, after that of last month, carrying 1,200 generators. The donation is part of the $100 million (around 93 million EUR) humanitarian relief aid allocated by the UAE to the civilians affected by the crisis in Ukraine.

Tuesday, 10 January‒Abu Dhabi’s sovereign investment company, Mubadala Investment, and US technology-focused manufacturer, National Resilience, signed a biopharma investment deal. Under the agreement, Mubadala will establish a new manufacturing plant in the UAE to make biopharmaceutical-related products, boosting opportunities for growth within the life sciences ecosystem.

Tuesday, 10 January‒The UAE will ban single-use plastics from 2024 and the import of plastic cutlery, drinks cups, styrofoam, and boxes from 1 January 2026 as part of its efforts to protect the environment. The ban contains exceptions that include plastic bags made from recycled materials.

Thursday, 12 January—Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, was named as President-Designate for COP28 UAE, the 28th annual UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Dubai between 30 November-12 December 2023. Shamma Al-Mazrui, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs, and Razan Al-Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, will join the UAE’s COP28 team as the Youth Climate Champion and UN Climate Change High-Level Champion, respectively.

The EU Corner

Monday, 9 January—Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Stefano Sannino, summoned, on behalf of the High Representative, Iran’s Ambassador to the European Union, Hossein Dehghani, to reiterate the EU’s strong appalment over the recent executions of two protesters, Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, and call on the Iranian authorities to immediately stop the use of death penalty against protesters.

Wednesday, 11 January—Director General of the Dubai Public Policy Research Center, Mohammed Baharoon, discussed regional and global dynamics with Deputy Heads of Missions of EU member states in the UAE at an event hosted by the EU Delegation in Abu Dhabi.

Key official visits

Monday, 9 January‒Senior officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, the UAE and the US met in Abu Dhabi, for the first meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee and Working Groups with the new Israeli government. The Working Groups discussed opportunities to promote prosperity and cooperation in the fields of food security, clean energy, tourism, healthcare, education, and regional security, in accordance with the Negev Forum Regional Cooperation Framework Document adopted in November 2022.

Monday, 9 January‒Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Asim Munir, visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Riyadh, he met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, to review bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them. In Abu Dhabi, he met with the UAE President, Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, to discuss cooperation in defence and military affairs.

Monday, 9 January‒Oman’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, Qais Mohammed Al-Yousef, received UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, in Muscat. They discussed ways to promote cooperation in the trade sector, limiting difficulties to trade and boosting trade exchange and organising joint commercial activities.

Wednesday, 11 January‒Oman’s Foreign Minister, Badr Al-Busaidi, received UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, in Muscat, to review the efforts made to support the Yemeni parties to reach a political solution to the ongoing conflict. Two days before Oman’s Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Khalifa bin Ali Al-Harthy, had discussed the Yemeni crisis with Swedish Special Envoy to Yemen, Peter Sempney, in Muscat.

Thursday, 12 January—The Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wopke Hoekstra, arrived in Abu Dhabi, where he met with his UAE counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, to discuss the Dutch-Emirati relations and ways to boost cooperation in economy and trade, combatting international crime and money laundering, and enhancing energy and food security, as well as combatting climate change as the UAE prepares to host the COP28. The two countries signed an agreement to boost cooperation on climate, including regarding renewable energy. Hoekstra will travel from the UAE to Qatar.

Thursday, 12 January—Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, travelled to Saudi Arabia for talks with his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and for the 5th session of the political follow-up committee between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.