Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Turkey’s Erdogan Angry With Arab Nations for “Feeble” Response After Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

December 12, 2017

Saudi Aramco Ramps Up Spending to Over $40 Billion a Year

December 12, 2017

World’s biggest oil company needs investments to maintain production capacity

DUBAI—Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Tuesday unveiled a plan to invest more than $40 billion a year in projects over the next decade, a significant expansion for the world’s largest energy company ahead of its expected public listing next year.

The $414 billion proposal is up almost 25% from a 10-year spending plan outlined last year by Saudi Aramco, as the company is commonly known. The increased spend is being driven by its goal of maintaining its production capacity at about 12 million barrels of oil a day, the most of any company in the world.

Saudi Aramco’s spending plan coincides with the Saudi government’s efforts to prop up oil prices with coordinated supply cuts via the 14-nation cartel it leads, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and an alliance of 10 other producers led by Russia. The group last month reaffirmed its commitment to limiting oil output through all of 2018 to reduce a long-built-up global oversupply of petroleum.

Saudi Aramco’s announcement came on the same day that Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, passed $65 a barrel for the first time since June 2015. Oil prices have risen by almost a third since their lows over the summer, thanks to OPEC’s production cuts, rising demand and supply disruptions in the U.K., the U.S., Iraq and Venezuela.

Saudi Aramco’s plans to increase spending buck a general trend in the global oil industry. Big publicly listed oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp. have either pulled back expenditure or maintained current levels as they weather the market downturn.

The Aramco plan was revealed at an industry event in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where most of its oil-sector is based. About $134 billion will be spent on drilling and well services and $78 billion will be invested to maintain oil output potential, according to a presentation by Nassir Al Yami, Saudi Aramco’s general manager for procurement.

More than half of the $334 billion previously announced by Aramco will be invested in offshore fields. The spending also represents a boost to sectors like refining, as the Saudis try to process more of their own crude into fuel, a more lucrative enterprise than exporting pure petroleum.

“Our numbers compared to the previous business plan have increased…we expanded into other sectors,” the company’s chief executive Amin Nasser told reporters Tuesday.

“We are into so many sectors…before we used to talk about oil and gas but now we are in renewables and infrastructures,” he said.

Saudi Aramco is planning potentially the world’s largest-ever public offering, with a domestic and international listing next year. More recently Riyadh has considered scrapping the international listing and selling a private placement to a Chinese consortium including pension and sovereign-wealth funds and state oil companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Qatar arms deal slammed amid concerns over human rights, regional rift

December 12, 2017

A member of staff works in the cockpit of an aircraft on the Eurofighter Typhoon production line at BAE systems Warton plant near Preston, northern England September 7, 2012. (Reuters)

LONDON: A major UK-based anti-arms-trade group has criticized the sale of 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar, telling Arab News that Britain must “make sure weapons are not being sold to human-rights-abusing regimes.”

The outcry follows the announcement on Sunday that British company BAE Systems has agreed a $6.7 billion deal with the Gulf nation of Qatar to supply two dozen Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

According to Reuters, the jets are due to be delivered from late 2022, with the deal strongly supported by the British government as it secures around 5,000 manufacturing jobs in England.

Reacting to the news, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson Andrew Smith told Arab News: “The Qatari regime has an appalling human rights record. There is a tense political situation in the region, and these arms sales will not make it any safer. They are characteristic of the huge levels of political and military support that the UK government is prepared to offer to human rights abusers and dictatorships.”

The CAAT is of course committed to halting the sale of all arms, with Smith explaining, “We do not support arms sales to anyone, but the immediate priority has to be to make sure weapons are not being sold to human rights abusing regimes, or into war zones. The overwhelming majority of UK arms are sold to dictatorships and human rights abusers.”

The latest sale of 24 Typhoon jets to the Qatar Emiri Air Force takes the total number sold worldwide to 623, which includes 28 to Kuwait, 72 to Saudi Arabia, 143 being used by Germany, and 160 in use by the UK. Qatar is the ninth country to buy the Eurofighter Typhoon warplane.

In a statement on the Qatari deal, BAE Systems Chief Executive Charles Woodburn said: “We are delighted to begin a new chapter in the development of a long-term relationship with the State of Qatar and the Qatar Armed Forces, and we look forward to working alongside our customer as they continue to develop their military capability.”

The move follows a string of arms deals signed between Qatar and French entities last week, including 12 Rafale fighter jets.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh criticized that move.

“France should be cognizant of the fact that such a deal would only ratchet up radicalism, violence and militarization of conflicts in the region,” he told Arab News.

“Qatar is funding, arming, and training extremist groups and militias across the region. As Qatar and its ally the Iranian regime are top states sponsor of terrorism, France deal and its rapprochement with Qatar will only empower and embolden terrorist groups in the region. In addition, weapons and military equipments sold to Qatar can easily fall in the hands of terrorist groups.”

Yemen’s Houthis kill 20, arrest dozens in latest crackdown

December 12, 2017

A Yemeni fighter loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni president flashes his Kalashnikov assault rifle as he walks on a road leading to the town of Khokha which was retaken from Shiite-Huthi rebels, about 120 kilometres south of the Huthi rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, on December 10, 2017. (AFP)

CAIRO: Yemen’s official news agency SABA said the Houthi militias have killed at least 20 people and detained dozens across the country’s north since assassinating former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis appear to be escalating their crackdown on any possible sign of rebellion among their one-time allies from Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress. They are also shutting down the Internet and tightening an already existing media blackout.
According to SABA, now under control of the internationally-recognized government, the Houthis also blew up 20 houses in the northern province of Hajja and replaced the province’s governor who was a onetime Saleh associate.
The agency reported on Monday that the Houthis also arrested 49 people in Mahwet, another northern province in Yemen.
Houthi violence continued despite a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a renewed push to end the war.

Iran foreign minister defends missile program, asks European support

December 11, 2017


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign minister on Monday defended its ballistic missile program and urged European countries not to be influenced by U.S. President Donald Trump’s confrontational policy towards Tehran.

In an op-ed article in the New York Times, Mohammad Javad Zarif also urged European powers to help preserve the landmark 2015 deal under which Iran curbed its disputed nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of a number of international sanctions.

In October Trump struck a blow against the deal, approved by his predecessor Barack Obama, by refusing to certify that Iran is complying with the terms of the deal despite findings to the contrary by U.N. nuclear inspectors. Trump has also called Iran an “economically depleted rogue state” that exports violence.

“Europe should not pander to Washington’s determination to shift focus to yet another unnecessary crisis – whether it be Iran’s defensive missile program or our influence in the Middle East,” Zarif wrote.

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His remarks seemed to be at least partly aimed at France which has been critical of the Islamic Republic’s missile tests and regional policy, including involvement in Syria’s war, in recent weeks.

Last month French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “very concerned” by the missile program and called for talks about it, an appeal rejected by Iranian officials.

Iran’s missiles are for defensive purposes only, Zarif wrote in the op-ed.

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Iran’s Qadr ballistic missile is launched in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran. Credit FARS News

“We have honed missiles as an effective means of deterrence. And our conscious decision to focus on precision rather than range has afforded us the capability to strike back with pinpoint accuracy,” he wrote. “Nuclear weapons do not need to be precise. Conventional warheads, however, do.”

While criticizing the missile program, European powers that were party to the nuclear deal – France, Britain and Germany – have reaffirmed their commitment to the nuclear deal and voiced concern at Trump calling it into question.

Zarif also criticized rival Saudi Arabia’s regional policy and military campaign in Yemen but also called for dialogue.

“As Iran and its partners labor to put out fires, the arsonists in our region grow more unhinged. They’re oblivious to the necessity of inclusive engagement,” Zarif wrote.

(Refile with full name of minister, para 2, inserts dropped word “labor” in last para)

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; editing by Mark Heinrich



Mohammad Javad Zarif: Europe Must Work With Iran

December 11, 2017

The New York Times
December 10/11, 2017

By Mohammad Javad Zarif

CreditAlex Nabaum

TEHRAN — On a crisp morning in Vienna two summers ago, hours before concluding the nuclear deal with the United States, the European Union and five other world powers, I took to Twitter to write that the landmark accord was “not a ceiling but a solid foundation.”

Unfortunately, for the past 11 months, the response to Iran’s good faith has been tantrums from the Trump administration. But the unreliability of the United States — from climate change to Palestine— has become predictable. Our main concern now is cautioning European countries against wavering on issues beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement and following in lock step behind the White House. As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don’t soon find ourselves repeating history.

More than a decade before the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran held similar negotiations with Britain, France and Germany. European diplomats, seeking to persuade George W. Bush’s administration to give diplomacy a chance, asked us for a temporary, voluntary freeze on uranium-enrichment-related activities as a confidence-building measure. We agreed.

But placating the Americans proved difficult, and the Europeans took another wrong turn. After two years of negotiation — and under pressure from the United States — Britain, France and Germany suddenly demanded that we abandon all enrichment activities. The talks fell apart and the Europeans ended up neither stopping our nuclear program nor appeasing Washington.

Sporadic talks in the intervening years went nowhere, and by 2013, when we sat down again to negotiate — this time directly with the United States, as well — Iran had increased its number of centrifuges to 20,000 from fewer than 200 in 2005. There was no longer talk of an end to uranium enrichment on Iranian soil.

The nuclear deal is a rare triumph of diplomacy over confrontation. Undermining that would be a mistake. Europe should not pander to Washington’s determination to shift focus to yet another unnecessary crisis — whether it be Iran’s defensive missile program or our influence in the Middle East. This would repeat the very dynamics that preceded the nuclear deal.

Let me reiterate: Iran’s military capabilities comply with international law and are entirely defensive. Our defensive posture stems from sober geostrategic calculations, as well as moral and religious convictions. Our military doctrine is also based on historical experience: During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein rained Soviet-made missiles on our cities, some of them carrying chemical components provided by the West. The world not only kept silent, but also no country would sell Iran weapons to enable us to at least deter the aggressor.

We learned our lesson. We have honed missiles as an effective means of deterrence. And our conscious decision to focus on precision rather than range has afforded us the capability to strike back with pinpoint accuracy. Nuclear weapons do not need to be precise — conventional warheads, however, do.

Our commitment to self-defense is not a slogan. We have deployed our missiles against only a few equally heinous adversaries: Saddam Hussein’s regime and its terrorist allies, and the so-called Islamic State. And our strikes came in response to their merciless killing of Iranians.

No Iranian administration will leave our people defenseless. The international community — and Europe in particular — should realize this and instead focus its efforts on tackling real threats to the world, like the wars engulfing the Middle East.

Iran is proud of taking the lead in trying to bring an overdue end to the bloodshed in Syria. In 2013, I presented a plan to end the conflict there through a cease-fire, the formation of a national unity government, constitutional reform and free and fair elections. But this plan fell on deaf ears. Still, we have continued our efforts. Just last month, our president, Hassan Rouhani, joined by his Russian and Turkish counterparts, took an important stride toward peace at their summit meeting in Sochi, Russia, paving the way for more aid, de-escalation and the convening of a Syrian people’s congress.

In the case of Yemen, only two weeks after Saudi Arabia began its brutal bombing campaign in April 2015, Iran put forward a plan urging an immediate cease-fire and humanitarian assistance, followed by national dialogue to establish an inclusive government. The perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis, and their Western allies, choose war instead.

As Iran and its partners labor to put out fires, the arsonists in our region grow more unhinged. They’re oblivious to the necessity of inclusive engagement. And yet, despite the huge stakes, important stakeholders remain reluctant to hold the arsonists to account.

We urge responsible parties to recognize the need to look forward. And so, let us find hope in a shared vision of a more peaceful future and be brave enough to take tangible action to make it happen. In these pages in 2015 , I presented a proposal for a regional dialogue forum, a way to bring Iran and its neighbors together to work toward peace. We’re hopeful that responsible actors outside the Middle East will focus their efforts on urging their allies in our region to take seriously our proposal. We believe it can be a good start, and we once again invite all of our neighbors to participate.

Saudi’s Boost Desalination Capacity, Invest in Water Security for the Future

December 11, 2017

The projects include the construction of the desalination plant in Jeddah (phase 4) with reverse osmosis (RO) at Shoaiba. (SPA)

JEDDAH: The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) signed several contracts aimed at increasing water supply to some governorates in the Makkah region as well as ensuring supply to areas without water at a cost of more than SR9 billion ($2.4 billion).

The projects include the construction of the desalination plant in Jeddah (phase 4) with reverse osmosis (RO) at Shoaiba, the transfer of technology and the purchase of produced water through the establishment of a multi-desalination plant at the Shoaiba power and desalination plant, the Shoaiba Mina water transfer system (B).
The second phase in Taif, manufacture and supply of water transfer pipes from Arafat to Taif, implementation of pumping stations and the extension of pipelines of the water transfer system from Arafat to Taif.
These projects also include the manufacture and supply of the Rabigh-Jeddah-Makkah water transfer system, the implementation of pumping stations, the extension of the pipelines of the Rabigh-Jeddah-Makkah water transport system and the implementation of Taif-Turubah-Ranyah-Al-Khurma pumping stations system.
During the annual visit of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal to various parts of the region, citizens had reportedly urged the authorities to ensure adequate water supply to their areas.
They also demanded the establishment of campuses of various universities and called for the provision of electricity and other civic amenities to some villages. The Makkah governor is actively pursuing progress on these projects.

Iran Ready to Restore Ties with Saudi Arabia — With Conditions

December 10, 2017

Al Jazeera

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani [File: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo]
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani [File: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo]

In a speech broadcast Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran is ready to restore ties with Saudi Arabia if it stops bombing Yemen and cuts its alleged ties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian demonstrators attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in response to the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite dissident leader.

Tensions spiked again last month after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that was intercepted near Riyadh.

Rouhani said that Iran and Saudi Arabia could have “good relations” if the Saudis end their “misguided friendship” with Israel and halt the “inhuman bombardment” of Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iranian-allied rebels known as Houthis.

Iranian media quoted Rouhani as saying: “If Saudi Arabia, our neighbouring country, stops bombing Yemen from tomorrow and stand up against Israel and relies on its own people, we do not see any barriers in front of improving our relations with them.”

“We are not like America that has broken its promises so far in the nuclear deal. when we sign an agreement, we will remain loyal to it and keep our promises.”

The president went on as saying “we are Muslim and Iranian, and we have a long and old culture, we are not the one who violates the nuclear agreement. In case the other side does this, we will have our own options.”

At the end of his speech, Rohani concluded that “Palestine has been and will remain our cause, and the United States and the Zionist regime will not succeed in their recent conspiracy, and God willing, the Islamic nations will liberate al-Quds soon.”

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in June, according to Reuters, that any future war waged by Israel against Syria or Lebanon could draw in fighters from countries including Iran and Iraq.

Has Rouhani succeeded in reforming Iran?


Has Rouhani succeeded in reforming Iran?


Saudi Arabia calls on US to back down on Jerusalem decision

December 10, 2017

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. (AFP)

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday called on the US administration to back down from a recent decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said: “my government calls on the US administration to back down from its decision and support the international will to enable the Palestinian people to regain their legitimate rights, taking into account that this step, although it will not change or prejudice the firm rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and other occupied territories, it represents a significant retreat in efforts to push the peace process forward and a disruption of the US position.”
Al-Jubeir, in a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, added: “We call upon the international community to intensify its efforts to push forward the peace process in order to put an end to this historic conflict within the framework of a permanent, just and comprehensive solution based on the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative to enable the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate rights in an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to establish peace, security and stability in the region and the world at large.”
The Arab League meeting, which brings together foreign ministers from member states, is taking place as protests continued for the third consecutive day in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, and his intention to move the US Embassy there, triggered denunciations from around the world, with even close allies suggesting he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region.

— With input from agencies


Tougher U.S. Tone Toward Saudi Arabia Exposes Rift on Key Ally

December 9, 2017


By Nick Wadhams and  Nafeesa Syeed

With a series of rebukes of Saudi Arabia this week, President Donald Trump’s administration appears to be taking a more assertive stance toward a key Middle East ally after sending conflicting messages for months.
  • Trump calls out Saudi leaders over blockade of Yemen
  • Growing sense of alarm at State Department over Saudi actions
The skyline in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

With a series of rebukes of Saudi Arabia this week, President Donald Trump’s administration appears to be taking a more assertive stance toward a key Middle East ally after sending conflicting messages for months.

On Dec. 6, Trump issued a two-sentence statement calling on Saudi Arabia to immediately end its blockade of Yemen, an act that has threatened to cause widespread famine, as the kingdom fights Houthi rebels believed to have backing from Iran. On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Saudi Arabia’s leaders to “think through the consequences” of their actions and be “a little bit more thoughtful.”

While the comments stopped short of tangible action — the U.S. continues to back the Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes in Yemen with intelligence and refueling — the rhetoric reflected a sharper tone toward the kingdom. It also showed Trump aligning more closely with his top diplomat who, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, has been more inclined to reprimand Saudi Arabia for a series of foreign policy steps that have drawn widespread criticism.

“There seems to be a little more of a unified voice from Washington,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “Those are the same arguments that Mattis and Tillerson were making earlier, but earlier we saw statements out of the White House or tweets from the president that seemed to undermine their concerns and now those statements are absent.”

Read a QuickTake Q&A on the killing of Yemen’s former president

Trump’s Yemen statement was followed by a lengthier version Friday which put more emphasis on the Houthi rebels’ recent killing of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But it still called on the Saudi-led coalition to allow for the “free flow” of goods from Yemen’s ports and commercial flights from the capital, Sana’a.

Behind the remarks is a growing sense of alarm within the State Department about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seen by Tillerson and many U.S. diplomats as young and inexperienced. Tillerson has repeatedly tried without success to facilitate a resolution to a dispute between a Saudi-led bloc and Qatar, which hosts a key U.S. military headquarters.

Hariri’s Resignation

And the U.S. seemed as surprised as anyone when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri flew to Riyadh last month and abruptly resigned before returning to his country weeks later and withdrawing his resignation. Hariri’s coalition government includes Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Tillerson’s alarm about Saudi actions grew after he began to suspect that Prince Mohammed and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner — another foreign policy neophyte — were withholding details about a Middle East peace plan that the State Department believed could have disastrous consequences.

“We’ve seen these things over the past few weeks where there was a sense that the Saudis, inadvertently or because of a lack of experience, have wrong-footed us in ways that were detrimental to our interests and to regional stability,” said Gerald Feierstein, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and now a resident expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

“Clearly there needs to be some kind of more open and transparent communication between Washington and Riyadh so that we’re not caught by surprise,” Feierstein said.

Glowing Orb

It is a far cry from May, when Trump made his first overseas trip as president to Saudi Arabia, touted billions of dollars in weapons sales to the kingdom and had his visage projected onto the side of the Ritz-Carlton where he was staying. One photo in particular spawned a slew of Internet memes: it showed Trump and King Salman Bin Abdulaziz resting their hands on a glowing orb as they inaugurated a center to combat extremist ideology.

Image result for Trump , King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, photos, glowing orb

In recent weeks, Tillerson got Trump’s permission to deliver private messages to Prince Mohammed, warning him against further destabilizing actions in Qatar. This week he seemed more open to expressing his concerns publicly, though still in a diplomatic style.

“With respect to Saudi Arabia’s engagement with Qatar, how they’re handling the Yemen war that they’re engaged in, the Lebanon situation, I think we would encourage them to be a bit more measured and a bit more thoughtful in those actions, to, I think, fully consider the consequences,” Tillerson told reporters Friday in Paris.

© AFP / by Dave Clark | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia to be “more measured” in its foreign policy approach