Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Iran sends 1,100 tonnes of food to Qatar daily

June 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Iran began exporting food to Qatar days after an unprecedented Gulf crisis erupted, leaving the emirate without the land transport links it relies on to import food
TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran is shipping more than 1,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to Qatar every day after Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia cut relations with Doha, Fars news agency reported Thursday.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are among several countries which announced on June 5 the suspension of all ties to Qatar over what they say is its support for extremist groups and its political proximity to Iran.

Qatar denies the allegations.

Iran, an arch-rival of Saudi Arabia, began exporting food to Qatar days later as the unprecedented Gulf crisis left the isolated emirate without the land transport links it usually relies on to import food.

Mohammad Mehdi Bonchari, director of ports in Iran’s Boushehr province, said Tehran was shipping 1,100 tonnes of food each day to Qatar, Fars reported.

Iran has also flown food to the emirate.

On June 11, Iran’s national airline told AFP that it had sent five planes of vegetables to Qatar.

On the same day Fars quoted the head of Iran’s cattle exporting association as saying 66 tonnes of beef had been exported to Qatar, with another 90 tonnes of beef expected to follow.

Qatar’s air lines have been forced to re-route some of their flights to go over Iran to avoid the newly banned skies over Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain.

That has increased traffic in Iranian air space by 17 percent, the official state news agency has reported.

Iran has urged Qatar and Gulf neighbours to engage in dialogue to resolve their dispute.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called for a permanent mechanism in the Gulf to resolve crises like the blockade against Qatar.

Turkey sends first cargo ship with aid for Qatar

June 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Turkey has already sent over 100 planes with food and other aid for Qatar but this is the first time a cargo ship has embarked on the voyage to Doha
ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey on Thursday sent its first ship loaded with aid for its embattled regional ally Qatar which has been hit by sanctions from Gulf powers led by Saudi Arabia, state media said.

Turkey has already sent over 100 planes with food and other aid for Qatar but this is the first time a cargo ship has embarked on the voyage to Doha.

The ship left the Aegean port of Aliaga in Izmir province with around 4,000 tonnes of fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs on board, the Anadolu news agency said. It should arrive in 10 days.

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”, leaving Doha economically and politically isolated.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately vowed to support Qatar.

Ankara vehemently rejected the accusations — already strongly denied by Doha — that Qatar supports terrorism, arguing the country had been a staunch opponent of Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said Wednesday that Turkey had already sent 105 cargo flights to Qatar loaded with aid to help the country through the crisis.

The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position as Ankara regards Qatar as its chief ally in the Gulf but is also keen to maintain its improving relations with the key regional power Saudi Arabia.

Ankara has stopped short of directly criticising Saudi Arabia’s actions, merely calling on Riyadh to take a lead role in solving the crisis.

In a sign of the importance of the relations with Riyadh, Erdogan late Wednesday held phone talks with Saudi King Salman after the sudden appointment of his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince in place of Mohammed bin Nayef.

Erdogan also spoke with Mohammed bin Salman himself and passed on his congratulations over the move, Anadolu said.

Both sides expressed a commitment to further strengthen relations between Ankara and Riyadh and to “step up efforts” to end the tensions concerning Qatar, it added.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey had been been damaged by Riyadh’s role in the 2013 ousting of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, a close ally of Ankara.

But ties thawed considerably after the accession of Salman to the throne in 2015, with the king warmly welcomed on visits to Turkey.

Asian Stocks Higher After Oil Prices Drag Down Wall Street

June 22, 2017

BEIJING — Asian financial markets were higher Wednesday after a plunge in oil prices dragged down energy stocks on Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8 percent to 3,183.91 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 25,817.79. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was unchanged at 20,144.78 and Seoul’s Kospi advanced 0.3 percent to 2,364.45. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 0.9 percent to 5,719.50 and India’s Sensex gained 0.6 percent to 31,463.02. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Singapore advanced while Philippines and Indonesia declined.

WALL STREET: Energy stocks dived as oil dropped to its lowest price since last summer. Gains for health care and technology stocks helped reduce losses for broader market indexes. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped 0.1 percent to 2,435.61 and the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3 percent to 21,410.03. The Nasdaq composite rose 45.92, or 0.7 percent to 6,233.95. Energy stocks in the S&P 500 tumbled 1.6 percent, a day after falling 1.2 percent. They are down nearly 15 percent for the year, when the overall S&P 500 is up 8.8 percent.

OIL PRICES: The price of oil has dropped more than 20 percent this year, breaking into what traders call a bear market. On Wednesday, crude dropped for a third straight day and touched its lowest price since August on expectations supplies will exceed demand. That helps big consumers such as China and other Asian manufacturers but hurts the ability of exporting countries to pay their bills. Accelerating corporate profits have been a big reason for rise in U.S. stock prices this year, and energy companies had been forecast to provide some of the biggest gains.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Falling oil prices continue to dampen sentiment in global macro markets,” said Citigroup in a report. U.S. credit spreads are rising and concern in currency markets is increasing, they said. “Falling oil prices also hurts sentiment towards the higher-yielding emerging markets, but a steep drop in the price of oil usually spreads bearish sentiment more broadly.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 2 cents to $42.55 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 98 cents on Wednesday to close at $42.53. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 2 cents to $44.80 in London. It plunged $1.20 the previous session.

CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 111.04 yen from Wednesday’s 111.37 yen. The euro gained to $1.1173 from $1.1170.

Saudi stock market up after new heir named

June 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP | The Saudi stock market was up four percent on news that King Salman had named his powerful son as heir and that the exchange had moved closer to joining a major global index

RIYADH (AFP) – The Saudi stock market was up four percent Wednesday on news that King Salman had named his powerful son as heir and that the exchange had moved closer to joining a major global index.The Saudi Tadawul index, the largest in the Middle East, surged 4.12 percent in early afternoon trading after Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed his son Mohammed bin Salman.

Trader confidence was also up after the Tadawul announced that global stock benchmark provider MSCI had added the exchange to its Emerging Market Index Watch List.

Saudi Arabia is the only major emerging economy not represented in the index.

The Watch List designation brings “anticipated MSCI Index inclusion now one step closer,” Khalid al-Hussan, CEO of the Saudi bourse, said in the statement.

Tadawul and Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority, the regulator, have made a series of reforms as part of efforts by the kingdom to broaden its investment base and diversify the economy.

The Tadawul All-Shares Index, which has a capitalisation of about $400 billion, opened to direct investment by qualified foreigners for the first time in 2015.

In February it inaugurated a parallel market designed to boost the role of small and medium firms.

The MSCI’s move “signals to international investors that the country’s capital market has attained greater maturity in terms of efficiency, governance and regulatory framework,” Tadawul chairwoman Sarah al-Suhaimi said in the statement.

Bloomberg News reported that calculations by HSBC Holdings Plc predicting the kingdom’s shares could see inflows of around $9 billion next year if the MSCI grants emerging market classification.

Related:

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman elevated to Crown Prince: SPA

June 21, 2017
Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman waves as he meets with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 11, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout/File Photo via REUTERS
 .
By Stephen Kalin and William Maclean | DUBAI

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to crown prince on Wednesday, replacing his cousin in a sudden announcement that confirms King Salman’s 31-year-old son as next ruler of the world’s leading oil exporter.

A royal decree said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a counter-terrorism chief admired in Washington for putting down an al Qaeda campaign of bombings in 2003-06, was relieved of all positions and replaced by Mohammed bin Salman who becomes deputy prime minister and retains defense, oil and other portfolios.

The decision by King Salman to promote his son and consolidate his power was endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family, the royal decree said.

Analysts said the change empowers Prince Mohammed bin Salman to move faster with his plan to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil, which includes the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.

“The change is a huge boost to the economic reform program, Vision 2030 and the whole paradigm shift that Saudi Arabia is traversing and Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is its architect,” said John Sfakianakis, director of the Riyadh-based Gulf Research Center.

“It’s important that MbS see through his vision and strategy being implemented and sustained,” he said.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, said the king’s decision was aimed at setting the line of succession clearly to avoid a power struggle between his son and Mohammed bin Nayef.

“It’s clearly a transition that has happened smoothly and bloodlessly … There’s going to be much more clarity on the issue of succession now. There was a bit of messiness before with everyone guessing what was going to happen. Now it’s clear, it’s straightforward. That kind of clarity lowers the risk, there’s no question as to who’s going to be in charge… ”

ESCALATING REGIONAL TENSIONS

“Some people were predicting that this would lead to a division in the family and strife and some kind of revolt. I don’t see that happening.”

A senior Saudi official said the decision was taken due to what he called special circumstances presented to the members of the Allegiance Council. He added that Mohammed bin Nayef supported the decision in a letter sent to the king.

Although Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion was expected among close circles it came as a surprise at a time the kingdom is facing escalating tensions with Qatar and Iran and is locked in an air war in Yemen.

The decree said Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, long a favorite of Washington’s for his tough stance against Islamist militancy, is relieved of all positions.

Even as deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has been responsible for running Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, dictating an energy policy with global implications and spearheading plans for the kingdom to build an economic future after oil.

That the royal succession in the world’s top oil exporter is closely scrutinized only makes the rapidity of Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, and the speed with which his better known cousins were brushed aside, more astonishing.

The announcement follows 2-1/2 years of already major changes in Saudi Arabia, which stunned allies in 2015 by launching an air war in Yemen, cutting back on lavish subsidies and proposing in 2016 the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.

Financial analysts said Prince Mohammed’s promotion gave further assurance that key parts of radical reforms to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil would continue.

“We do not expect to see any major changes to key areas of policy, including economic – Prince Mohammed bin Salman has already been driving the economic agenda and the push to transform and liberalize the economy,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Last year Mohammed bin Salman, or “MBS” as he is widely known, announced sweeping changes aimed at ending the kingdom’s reliance to oil, part of his campaign to tackle systemic challenges that the kingdom has previously failed to address.

 

POWER BEHIND THE THRONE

Until his father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became Saudi Arabia’s seventh king in January 2015, few people outside the kingdom had ever heard of Prince Mohammed, seen more than two years on as the power behind its throne.

Regarded warily by some Saudis and by many foreigners as an unknown quantity in the Middle East’s traditional status quo power, Prince Mohammed has over the past year set about building his profile with interviews in some Western media.

For many Saudis those changes have become inextricable from the person of Prince Mohammed, whose photographs adorns walls, car windows and advertising hoardings across the country and who has assumed a startling array of powers.

He is Defense Minister, a role that in Saudi Arabia gives its incumbent command of one of the world’s biggest arms budgets and makes him ultimately responsible for Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented military adventure in Yemen.

He also heads the Council for Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), a group of cabinet ministers who meet weekly and which oversees all elements of policy that touch on the economy or social issues like education, health and housing.

Prince Mohammed chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first member of the ruling family to directly oversee the state oil company, long regarded as the preserve of commoner technocrats.

But perhaps most importantly, he also holds the critical position of gatekeeper to his father, King Salman, who in Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy retains the final say in any major decision of state.

Outside Saudi Arabia, that rapid advance and the sudden changes to longstanding policies on regional affairs, energy and its economy have prompted unease, adding an unpredictable edge to a kingdom that allies long regarded as a known quantity.

Inside, they have prompted admiration among many younger Saudis who regard his ascent as evidence that their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old.

 

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin, William Maclean, Rania El Gamal, Sylvia Westall, Sami Aboudi, Andrew Torchia, Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

Emirates Wants US, European Monitors for Any Qatar Deal — “The Qataris are still in a state of denial.”

June 20, 2017

BRUSSELS — The United Arab Emirates is calling for a monitoring system to ensure that Qatar respects any future agreement to end the standoff with its Gulf neighbors.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in Brussels Tuesday that “we do need to create some sort of monitoring system of Qatar’s obligations.”

He said he hoped U.S. and European officials from countries like Britain, France and Germany could take part to ensure that Qatar does not harbor or fund extremists.

Gargash said he expects the crisis to drag on because “the Qataris are still in a state of denial.”

Related:

 (Includes links to Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

Iran protests against Tillerson ‘transition’ remarks — Tillerson seemed to say U.S. would back a change of government in Iran

June 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the Iran transition remarks whilst giving evidence to a Congressional committee on June 13, 2017

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has called in the Swiss charge d’affaires, who looks after US interests, to protest against comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backing “peaceful transition” in the Islamic republic.The administration of President Donald Trump has taken an increasingly hawkish position towards Iran since taking office in January but Tillerson’s testimony to a Congressional committee last week appeared to be the first expression of support for a change of government.

“The Swiss charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry to be a handed a strong protest from the Islamic Republic of Iran against the comments by the US secretary of state…. which were contrary to international law and the UN charter,” ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told Iranian media.

Alongside Monday’s summoning of the Swiss envoy, Iran also sent a protest letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres, the ISNA news agency reported.

In last Wednesday’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tillerson accused Iran of seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East at the expense of US allies like Saudi Arabia.

“Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony… and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government,” the US top diplomat said.

“Those elements are there certainly, as we know,” he added, without elaborating on the groups he was referring to.

Iran was, with North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, part of the “axis of evil” that the George W. Bush administration earmarked for “regime change” after it took office in 2001.

But when Saddam’s ouster in the US-led invasion of 2003 triggered a deadly insurgency that continues to this day, the policy fell out of favour.

In his testimony, Tillerson also raised the possibility of imposing sanctions on the whole of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s main military force and a major player in the country’s economy.

Currently, Washington has only blacklisted the Guards’ foreign operations arm — the Quds Force — and some individual commanders.

“We continually review the merits, both from the standpoint of diplomatic but also international consequences, of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organisation,” Tillerson said.

The Guards have played a major role in training Shiite militias in Iraq that are a significant force in the fightback against the Islamic State group, and have also trained thousands of “volunteers” to battle alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.

The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979 and its interests are looked after by Switzerland.

Related:

 (Includes links to Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

One dead in new Bahrain bombing — One Person killed

June 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Bahrain has been rocked by unrest among its Shiite majority since 2011, when security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister

DUBAI (AFP) – A bomb in a Shiite village outside the Bahraini capital has killed one person, the second blast in a suburb of Manama this week, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.The Sunni-ruled Gulf state has been rocked by unrest among its Shiite majority since 2011, when security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

The interior ministry gave no date for the latest bombing saying only that a body discovered on Monday was found to have been killed in a bombing.

“An initial investigation into a body found on a farm in the village of Hajar on June 19 showed the death was the result of a bomb blast,” the ministry said, without elaborating.

Police meanwhile made several arrests in connection with a Sunday night bombing outside Manama that killed a policeman and wounded two others, the ministry said.

That blast struck in the flashpoint village of Diraz, home of the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shiite majority, Isa Qassim.

Five people were killed in the village last month when security forces opened fire to disperse a months-long sit-in in protest at measures taken against the cleric by the authorities.

Last year, a court order stripped Qassim of his Bahraini citizenship, a sanction used against dozens of dissidents that has drawn the condemnation of human rights groups.

In May, a court sentenced him to a suspended one-year jail term on charges of money laundering and illegal fundraising.

The Bahraini courts have sentenced dozens of dissidents to long jail terms, many of them on “terrorism” charges.

The authorities have also banned the main Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq — the largest in parliament before 2011 — as well as the main secular opposition group Al-Waad.

Foreign press access is severely restricted in the tiny but strategic island state, which lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

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Qatar Says Won’t Negotiate Until Economic Boycott Ends

June 19, 2017

DOHA — Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states that have cut economic and travel ties with it unless they reverse their measures, its foreign minister said, ruling out discussions over Qatar’s internal affairs including Al Jazeera TV.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar had still not received any demands from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which severed relations two weeks ago, triggering the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

Image result for Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, photos

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahmanal-Thani

The countries accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants and stirring up unrest, charges Doha denies.

“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed told reporters in Doha. “Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward.”

He said Kuwait’s ruler was the sole mediator in the crisis and that he was waiting for specific demands from Gulf states in order to take resolution efforts forward.

“We cannot just have (vague) demands such as ‘the Qataris know what we want from them, they have to stop this or that, they have to be monitored by a foreign monitoring mechanism,'” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Anything that relates to the affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is subject to negotiation, he said, referring to the body comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar’s affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar’s affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs,” he said.

Qatar’s Gulf critics have accused Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected those accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.

Image result for LNG, Qatar, photos

The crisis has hit civilian travel, some food imports, ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sown confusion among businesses. But it has not affected energy exports from Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar would rely on other states if the boycott continued, including Saudi Arabia’s arch regional foe Iran.

“We have a back-up plan which depends mainly on Turkey, Kuwait and Oman,” he said. “Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar.”

(Reporting by Tom Finn; writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Hong Kong firms join forces to make deals under Silk Road plan

June 19, 2017

Companies will draw on their experience to initially establish infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam

By Josh Ye
South China Morning Post

Monday, June 19, 2017, 8:48pm

Hong Kong companies will form a consortium to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam under mainland China’s Silk Road project, the Trade Development Council says.

Council president Vincent Lo Hong-sui said over 40 business leaders from Hong Kong and Shanghai formed a delegation while visiting the two countries last month and met both prime ministers.

He added that this was one of many steps in further involving Hong Kong companies with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Lo said the statutory body was now forming “a consortium of local companies” to help them enter these developing markets as a collective force.

“We are looking to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in countries under the belt and road initiative.”

The initiative was launched by Beijing in 2013 to promote the building of railways, roads, power plants and other infrastructure projects in 60 countries from Asia to Europe on its old Silk Road to promote trade and economic growth.

The council has identified eight countries out of the 65 under the scheme as the initial destinations for Hong Kong investment – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Nicholas Kwan, research director at the council, said Hong Kong investors were seasoned in managing supply chain systems across countries.

 Vincent Lo says numerous multibillion-dollar deals will be closed this year. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lo said the development level of many of the belt and road countries reminded him of mainland China three decades ago.

“Hong Kong investors have garnered a lot of practical experience in developing mainland China,” he said. “This experience is unique and will definitely benefit other countries.”

He said the council aimed to close several deals this year and estimated some projects were worth more than US$10 billion.

Lo added that chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had told him the next administration would fully support the council in furthering deals with countries linked to the trade initiative.

The council also announced that it would host its second belt and road summit in September, which looked to introduce more concrete plans for local firms to enter relevant countries.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2099050/hong-kong-firms-join-forces-make-deals-under-silk-road-plan