Posts Tagged ‘Saudis’

40,000 displaced Yemenis stranded without aid in Aden: UN

January 31, 2018

A Yemeni child looks out of a window as food aid is distributed by a local charity at a camp for the displaced, in the northern province of Hajjah on Dec. 23, 2017. (AFP)
ADEN: The UN expressed concern on Wednesday for more than 40,000 displaced Yemenis who had sought refuge in second city Aden, only to find themselves caught in deadly fighting between troops and separatist militia.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it had been unable to distribute aid since the southern separatists overran most of the city at the weekend opening up a new front in Yemen’s devastating three-year civil war.
“UNHCR emergency aid distributions and humanitarian assessments planned this week for vulnerable, displaced Yemenis have now been postponed and UNHCR humanitarian cargo remains at Aden port unable to be released,” the agency said on Twitter.
“We are also particularly concerned for those newly displaced in Aden who have fled other areas in Yemen. More than 40,000 people fled to Aden and nearby governorates since December and we anticipate more displacement as people continue to flee from hostilities in the west coast.”
The separatists, who had been in an uneasy alliance with the beleaguered government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, launched their assault in Aden on Sunday and swiftly overran his troops, laying siege to the presidential palace.
Aden has been the headquarters of Hadi’s ministers since 2015, when Shiite rebels overran the capital Sanaa and much of the north.
International charity Save the Children said on Tuesday that it too had been forced to suspend its work in Aden out of fear for the safety of its staff.
Even before the latest fighting, Yemen already faced the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis, with some 8.4 million of its 22.2 million population at risk of famine, according to the UN.


Does President Trump Want to Negotiate Middle East Peace?

December 6, 2017

In the debate over a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, no issue is more charged with emotion than the future of Jerusalem. Should the holy city be the capital of the Israelis alone or shared with the Palestinians?

Yet now, with no serious peace talks underway, President Trump is reportedly planning to grant the Israelis’ wish and confound the Palestinians by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv, thereby tossing aside decades of American diplomacy. Why?

Mr. Trump insists he is committed to achieving the “ultimate” Middle East peace agreement that eluded his predecessors. But his decision to tip the scales toward Israel on this critical matter, communicated to Arab and Israeli leaders on Tuesday, almost certainly will make an agreement harder to reach by inflaming doubts about America’s honesty and fairness as a broker in negotiations, raising new tension in the region and perhaps inciting violence.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Anadolu Agency / AFP

Although Israel’s government has been located in Jerusalem since its founding in 1948, the United States, like the rest of the world, hasn’t recognized the city as Israeli territory, even after the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, when Israel drove back Jordan from East Jerusalem and occupied it. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel promised to negotiate Jerusalem’s future as part of a peace agreement. It has been assumed that under any deal, the city would remain its capital.

Palestinians anticipated being able to locate their capital in East Jerusalem and to have access to Muslim holy sites there. East Jerusalem was exclusively Arab in 1967, but Israel has steadily built settlements there, placing some 200,000 of its citizens among the Arab population and complicating any possible peace agreement.

Mr. Trump boasts of being a consummate dealmaker, but dealmakers don’t usually make concessions before negotiations begin, as the president has here. The big winner is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, whose hard-line government has shown no serious interest in peace, at least not a two-state solution that could win Palestinian support. The blowback was swift. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, warned of “dangerous consequences” to the peace process, while Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the royal palace said, cautioned against the move, “stressing that Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world.” Turkey threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel; other criticism came from Egypt, the Arab League and France. King Salman of Saudi Arabia told Mr. Trump a decision on Jerusalem before a final peace deal would hurt talks and increase regional tensions.

That Saudi warning might be expected, given that Jerusalem is home to the Aqsa Mosque and that the Saudi king holds the title of custodian of Islam’s two other holiest mosques, in Mecca and Medina. A Saudi-sponsored Arab peace initiative still on the table calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem as part of a far-reaching deal. Yet the Saudis may well be edging away from that position. Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, has close ties to Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, who is drafting a comprehensive peace plan.

President Donald Trump speaks about his decision to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments on December 4, 2017.

President Donald Trump speaks about his decision to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments on December 4, 2017. Evan Vucci/AP

While that plan is not yet public, Crown Prince Mohammed is said to have outlined a proposal to Mr. Abbas last month that favored the Israelis more than any proposal previously embraced by the American government. Palestinians would get limited sovereignty over a state that covers only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank. Most Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not get East Jerusalem as their capital, and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

No Palestinian leader could accept such a plan and retain popular support, and the White House and Saudis denied they are working on such ideas. But some analysts doubt Mr. Trump really wants a peace agreement and say any possible proposal may be intended as political cover so Israel and the Sunni Arabs, once enemies, can intensify their incipient collaboration against Iran.

The constituency Mr. Trump is most clearly courting is his own political base of evangelicals and other pro-Israel hard-liners . His predecessors had also made pandering campaign promises in support of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem. But once in office they chose not to prioritize their domestic politics over delicate peace diplomacy, and they put that promise on hold.

Some optimists think that Mr. Trump could lessen the harm of a decision on Jerusalem by making clear he will not prejudge the future of East Jerusalem or other core questions like the borders of a Palestinian state. His track record so far gives little evidence that he has the temperament or skill to navigate such a nuanced position.

Trump decision on Jerusalem could have deep repercussions

December 6, 2017

Jared Kushner: Israel Needs Peace With Palestinians Before It Can Form Alliance With Arab States

December 3, 2017

Jared Kushner tells Saban Forum that Saudi Arabia has prioritized resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adds that Trump hasn’t reached decision about Jerusalem’s status

Amir Tibon (Washington) Dec 03, 2017 8:22 PM

Jared Kushner addresses the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2017.

Jared Kushner addresses the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2017. JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN/REUTERS

WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser on Middle East peace, said Sunday that Israel needs to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians before it can form an alliance with the greater Arab world.


Kushner was addressing the Saban Forum in Washington about the Trump administration’s peace efforts. He was speaking along with Haim Saban, the Israeli-born business mogul who funds the annual conference on U.S. policy in the Middle East organized by the Brookings Institution.

“The president has a very long career of accomplishing things that a lot of people think are impossible,” Kushner said. “The most recent example of that is the election. When we started the process of looking at how to create the peace deal, the first thing a lot of people told us was that it wasn’t the right time, that we’re wasting our time.”

Kushner added that “I think that if we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole, this issue has to be solved.”
Kushner addressed criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the conflict, saying that “it’s not a conventional team, but it’s a perfectly qualified team. When we were thinking how to put a team together, the president and I focused on who are the most qualified people.”


“There’s no better real estate lawyer than Jason Greenblatt, and there are a lot of real estate issues related to this. We have Dina Powell, who has been very instrumental in helping us develop a regional economic plan for what could happen after a peace agreement. We’re focused on what happens after an agreement – how do you create a better environment down the road,” Kushner said.

“We have an open and honest dialogue with both sides, our conversations have opened up a lot. I think there are a lot of instances of great trust between Israelis and Palestinians, but not along the leadership. I’ve seen a lot of cases of Israelis and Palestinians working together and having great relationships,” he added.

“Both sides really trust the president, and that’s very important. The fact that both sides trust him has been very important. As this process has gone through, our team has tried very hard to do a lot of listening – not just with Israelis, with Palestinians. [It] understands what their views and red lines are. We’ve done the same with different countries in the region. We’re trying to find a solution that comes from the region, not to impose.”

As Kushner told Saban, “We’ve been very focused on the deal, spending seven to eight months, and you see a lot of reasons why this has failed – there are a lot of distractions that come up. But I tell my guys – we’re not chasing rabbits. A lot of the issues that come up on a daily basis are because of not having a final-status agreement. We try to stay focused on solving the bigger issues.”

Regional dynamics play a big role in opportunities, he said.

“A lot of countries in the Middle East want the same thing – economic progress, peace for their people. Many countries in the region see Israel as a much more likely ally than it was 20 years ago because of Iran, because of ISIS. A lot of people want to see it put together,” Kushner said.

“We’ve made significant progress. It will take some time, but if you look at the last years before we came into office, a lot of countries felt Iran was being emboldened and there was no check on their aggression,” he added.

“The president has been very clear about his intentions on this issue, and going to Saudi Arabia and laying out a priority of fighting Iran’s aggression was significant,” Kushner continued, addressing Tehran’s influence in the region.

“The Saudis care a lot about the Palestinian people, they believe the Palestinian people need to have hope and opportunity, and this has been a big priority for the king and the crown prince – finding a solution to this problem,” Kushner added in a nod to the involvement of Saudi Arabia, with which Israel is reported to now have burgeoning ties.

“They’ve been very committed to doing that. Not just the Saudis – all the countries in the region,” Kushner said.

“The way that I try to define the president’s foreign policy objectives – peace and prosperity,” Kushner said. “He wants us to create as much peace and economic growth. This is very personal for him, and he sees it as integral to his values.”

Discussing reports that Trump will announce plans to move the U.S. Embassy  from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Kushner said  “the president will make his decision; he’s still looking at a lot of different facts. He’ll make sure he does that at the right time.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the Saban Forum, via satellite, raising concerns over the threat posed by Iran.

Iran has a “ruthless commitment to terror” and a “ruthless commitment to kill Jews,” much like Nazi Germany during World War II, Netanyahu said, adding that as prime minister he did not “have the luxury of discounting” threats to destroy the Jewish people, and thus he continues to speak out about Iran.

Amir Tibon
Haaretz Correspondent
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Yemen VP urges national unity against Houthis

December 2, 2017

FILE PHOTO: Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh addresses a rally held to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of his General People’s Congress party in Sanaa, Yemen on August 24, 2017. (REUTERS)

ADEN: Yemen’s vice president on Saturday called for national unity to challenge the Houthis’ control over the country’s institutions and their crimes against the Yemeni people.

Lt. Gen. Ali Mohsen Saleh praised the Yemeni people’s growing awareness of the national, regional and international dangers posed by the Iran-backed Houthis.
Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Saturday he was ready for a “new page” in relations with the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
The call came as his supporters battled Houthi fighters for a fourth day in the capital Sanaa as the two sides traded blame for a rift between allies that could affect the course of the civil war.
“I call upon the brothers in neighboring states and the alliance to stop their aggression, lift the siege, open the airports and allow food aid and the saving of the wounded and we will turn a new page by virtue of our neighborliness,” Saleh said in a televised speech.
“We will deal with them in a positive way and what happened to Yemen is enough,” he added.
Saleh stepped down after 33 years in office in 2012, following months of Arab Spring protests against his rule, but remained leader of the GPC, the country’s largest political party
The Arab coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government said it is closely monitoring fighting between Houthi militias and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The differences between the rebel factions are due to the Iran-backed Houthis’ attempts to impose, by force of arms, their will on the Yemeni people, the coalition said.
It called on the Yemeni people, including supporters of Saleh’s party — the General People’s Congress — to unite against the Houthis for the benefit of the entire country.
The coalition reiterated its full support for attempts by the Yemeni people to preserve their land, identity, integrity and social unity within the framework of Arab, regional and international security.
Residents of Sanaa described heavy fighting on the streets of Hadda, a southern residential district of the Yemeni capital where many of Saleh’s relatives, including his nephew Tareq, live, early on Saturday, with sounds of explosions and gunfire heard all over the area.
The fighting subsided by the afternoon as Saleh supporters secured control.
There was no immediate word on casualties.
Saleh’s GPC party accused the Houthis of failing to honor the truce and said in a statement on its website that the Houthis bear responsibility for dragging the country into a civil war.
It also called on supporters, including tribal fighters, to “defend themselves, their country, their revolution and their republic…”
The GPC appealed to the army and security forces to remain neutral in the conflict.
“I appeal to the leader Saleh to show more wisdom and maturity… and not to heed incitement calls,” Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi said in a speech on the group’s Al-Masirah TV, adding that his group was ready to sit down for arbitration and abide by any ruling.
The fighting began on Wednesday when Saleh’s GPC party accused the Houthis of breaking into the city’s main mosque complex and firing RPGs and grenades.
Both sides reported that at least 16 people have been killed in the fighting since Wednesday.
Yemen’s civil war has killed more than 10,000 people since 2015, displaced more than two million people, caused a cholera outbreak infecting nearly one million people and put the country on the brink of famine.

Yemen rebel alliance teeters as strongman turns to Saudis

December 2, 2017


© AFP | Huthi rebel fighters walk in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on November 30, 2017

SANAA (AFP) –  The rebel alliance controlling Yemen’s capital appeared to be crumbling Saturday as a strongman opposed to the internationally recognised government reached out to the Saudi-led coalition fighting the insurgents.The rift within rebel ranks has raised fears of a new front in an already devastating three-year war that has claimed thousands of lives and triggered a major humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The overture by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh follows a wave of deadly clashes between his supporters and Iran-backed Huthi rebels that has left dozens dead or wounded in Sanaa.

The former enemies joined ranks in 2014 to seize the capital and drive out Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government has taken refuge in the country’s south.

But their fragile alliance has shown signs of unravelling for months and talks between them on Friday failed to broker a truce.

Saleh said Saturday that he was ready to talk to the Saudi-led coalition if it lifts a crippling blockade imposed on the impoverished country last month after a rebel missile was shot down near Riyadh.

“I call on our brothers in neighbouring countries… to stop their aggression and lift the blockade… and we will turn the page,” he said in a televised speech.

“We vow to our brothers and neighbours that, after a ceasefire is in place and the blockade is lifted … we will hold dialogue directly through the legitimate authority represented by our parliament.”

– Rebels denounce ‘coup’ –

The Huthis quickly hit back, accusing Saleh of staging a “coup against our alliance”.

His speech had “exposed the deception of those who claim to stand against aggression,” a Huthi spokesman said in a statement carried by the rebels’ Al Masirah TV.

The Yemen war has claimed more than 8,750 lives since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Hadi government’s fight against the rebels in 2015, triggering what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Nearly one million people have been infected by cholera in Yemen this year, including more than 2,200 people who have died, according to the World Health Organization.

Saleh loyalists and rebel fighters continued to clash on Saturday afternoon in Sanaa, where violence has left at least 40 fighters dead or wounded since Wednesday according to rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi.

Saleh has accused the Huthis of seeking to monopolise power and the rebels have accused the strongman of treason over his suspected contacts with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition on Saturday welcomed Saleh’s offer of talks, a move the Huthi-run Al Masirah TV said showed the coalition’s “faith” that the former president would reverse alliances.

“The decision by (Saleh’s) General People’s Congress to take the lead and their choice to side with their people will free Yemen of … militias loyal to Iran,” the coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Huthis, which Tehran strongly denies.

Saudis plan to redevelop the Shia-majority town of Awamiya

October 11, 2017


© AFP / by Anuj Chopra | A picture taken on October 1, 2017, during a tour guided by Saudi authorities shows a troop vehicle in the Shiite-majority town of Awamiya in the eastern Qatif region of the Sunni-ruled kingdom, after a security campaign against gunmen in the town

AWAMIYA (SAUDI ARABIA) (AFP) – Posters of sumptuous villas and palm-fringed boulevards hang in the battle-scarred old quarter of Awamiya, symbols of a controversial Saudi plan to redevelop the Shia-majority town which triggered months of deadly clashes.

Saudi Arabia prides itself on stability in a wider Middle East torn apart by conflict and strife, but Awamiya — on the kingdom’s oil-rich east coast — has a longstanding reputation of resistance to Sunni rule.

The latest wave of violence erupted in the summer when authorities began tearing down the neighbourhood of Musawara, a walled area dating back to the Ottoman Empire, saying its labyrinthine streets and maze-like structures had become a breeding ground for “terrorists”.

The demolitions prompted militants who chafe under Saudi rule to clash with government forces, bringing death and destruction on a scale that evoked comparisons to a war zone.

The outer walls of buildings and mosques are constellations of bullet holes. Mangled carcasses of burned-out cars lay strewn across its once-vibrant streets. Broken roller shutters expose mouldering jars of jam and cookies in a scorched grocery store.

A government official who gave AFP a rare tour of Musawara drew a triangle in the sand with a twig to describe the fighting.

“Terrorists,” he said, pointing at the apex of the triangle and “government forces” at the base.

“In between, house, house, house,” he said, explaining how pitched battles between the opposing sides wrought destruction on the neighbourhood.

In August, the government announced the end of a three-month campaign to flush out gunmen from Musawara. Protest messages on walls bearing insults to the government were scrubbed.

“This is not a Shia-Sunni problem; this is a terrorist problem,” the official said, revealing a cell phone image of a bullet-ridden government bulldozer targeted by snipers in the neighbourhood.

“We target anyone who is dangerous for the country ?- Shia or Sunni.”

– ‘Tired, tired, tired’ –

Awamiya, a town of around 25,000 people, has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 when protesters emboldened by the Arab Spring uprisings called for an end to perceived discrimination of Shia minorities.

Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community makes up an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the country’s population of 32 million.

Awamiya was also home to Nimr al-Nimr, a fiery Shia cleric and government critic who was executed last year on terrorism charges, sparking widespread outrage and leading to renewed tensions with regional rival Iran.

“We hope Awamiya will be restored to its former glory,” said Mohammed Ali al-Shoyoukh, an elderly resident who recently returned to the area after the fighting subsided.

“Honestly, we are tired, tired, tired,” he told AFP in the presence of the government official.

The exact number of fatalities from the clashes is unclear.

Human Rights Watch reported in August that more than a dozen people were killed, including Saudis and foreigners, in addition to five armed militants.

The interior ministry told AFP that 28 members of the security forces were killed in the wider Qatif region, which includes Awamiya, since the outbreak of unrest in 2011.

– ‘Unique heritage’ –

The government, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with the multi-million-dollar plan to redevelop the area.

The town’s acting mayor Essam al-Mulla gave AFP a video presentation of his blueprint to transform the wasteland with glass-fronted villas, fountains and shopping malls, shaded by verdant palm fronds and bordered by manicured lawns.

The construction was supposed to start three months ago, but was delayed because of fighting.

“It will now take two years to complete,” he said.

The cost of the project is unclear but Mulla said the compensation package alone for 488 Musawara homes slated for demolition would cost around 800 million riyals ($213 million).

He brushed aside criticism from the United Nations that the destruction would erase the neighbourhood’s “unique regional heritage”, saying that efforts were in place to maintain ancient structures including traditional wells.

Despite the recent unrest, he said, a majority of residents supported the redevelopment as most homes were unsuitable for habitation.

– Uncertain future –

“Awamiya’s (residents) want government investment in their communities, but more than that they’re demanding an end to discrimination,” said Adam Coogle, a HRW researcher.

“Saudi Arabia’s violent approach to destroying the Musawara neighbourhood and the many allegations of harm to residents during the process are unlikely to reassure Saudi Shia that the state has their best interests in mind.”

But the government official dismissed that view, saying the latest unrest ended in part with the support of local residents, many of whom spied on militant hideouts, leading to a number of targeted killings and arrests.

“There are still some terrorists at large, but their number is small,” he said, pointing at a school inside Musawara that he claimed the militants occupied as a launchpad for sniper raids.

But government forces themselves face allegations of occupying a public school, firing into populated areas and shutting down clinics and pharmacies to deny militants a chance to seek medical treatment, according to activists cited by HRW.

An activist in Awamiya said a tenuous calm had settled over the area, with random episodes of “arrests and harassment” still rattling residents.

“The town has a heavy security presence and is still surrounded by concrete walls and checkpoints,” he said, adding that the blockade was having an impact on farming and fishing communities as well as local merchants.

“The situation has calmed down but the future looks uncertain.”

by Anuj Chopra

Saudis Stress Commitment to Economic Change Despite Challenges — Power and influence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is starting to wane

September 11, 2017

Riyadh has backtracked on some moves recently, and there are worries about a public backlash

Saudi Arabia sought to reassure citizens and potential investors of its commitment to revamp the country’s oil-dependent economy after a series of setbacks that slowed the effort.

The government has backtracked on some politically-sensitive moves in recent months, postponing an increase in fuel prices and reinstating some government employee perks. It is now redrafting part of the plan to allow more time for implementation.

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Saudi Arabia is reportedly revising its ambitious plans to change its economy

  • Saudi Arabia is revising its major reform strategy just over a year after its launch.
  • The timeline of some targets has been extended and others have been removed entirely.
  • The National Transformation Plan is an attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Defence Minister and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs Mohammed bin Salman.

Fayez Nureldine | AFP | Getty Images
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Defence Minister and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia is revising its major reform strategy just over a year after its launch, extending the timeline of some targets and removing others entirely, according to reports.

A government document seen by the Financial Times said that the country’s amended National Transformation Plan, dubbed NTP 2.0, would “change existing initiatives and add new ones.” Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Plan is a pivotal element of the country’s “Vision 2030” reforms which were announced last year by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This redraft reportedly updates the plans which were originally set out to overhaul the economy and reduce what the deputy crown prince called Saudi Arabia’s “dangerous addiction to oil.”

The program had aimed to use a number of measures to wean the country off oil by 2020. These included privatizing state assets, creating 1.2 million private sector jobs and reducing unemployment from 11.6 percent to 9 percent.

Yet, according to insiders, the delays announced Thursday highlight the ambitious nature of the mammoth task. As the world’s leading oil exporter, the oil and gas sector accounts for 85 percent of Saudi Arabia’s export earnings and around 50 percent of its gross domestic product, according to OPEC.

“There is a recognition that too many of these targets were too aggressive and maybe having too much impact on the economy,” a government adviser told the Financial Times.

A view The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) on April 13, 2016 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

David Degner | Getty Images
A view The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) on April 13, 2016 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has been dogged by compressed oil prices since they slumped in mid-2014 and has been leading a measure by OPEC countries to reduce an ongoing supply glut. Figures from the International Monetary Fund predict that the Kingdom’s economic growth will be just 0.1 percent this year, versus 1.7 percent in 2016.

The government document stated that the timeline of the NTP will continue to 2020, but that implementation of certain projects would be extended to between 2025 and 2030.

However, advisors have suggested that the delays could hurt the country’s hopes of attracting international investment.

“Flexibility is great, but changing the goalposts isn’t a healthy habit,” another government advisor said to the Financial Times.

The amends made no reference to the partial privatization of Saudi Aramco as it sits outside of the NTP. Five percent of the state oil company is expected to be put up for an initial public offering next year.

Full details of the changes are expected to be announced in October.

Saudi Arabia’s king to soon abdicate

The news comes as discussions heat up around the anticipated transfer of power from the Kingdom’s King Salman to his son Prince Mohammed.

A research note released Thursday by analysis firm Eurasia Group suggested that the transfer could occur within the coming weeks to prevent the likelihood of dissent from other members of the ruling family.

“We think King Salman will proceed with promoting his son to his place in the next few weeks (if not imminently) to prevent MBS’s (Mohammed bin Salman) rivals from organizing to challenge the transition plan,” Ayham Kamel, practice head, Middle East & North Africa, at Eurasia Group noted.

But analysts have opined that the revisions indicate that infighting is already underway.

“Reports that the Saudi government is planning to dilute its reform plans may be the first sign that the power and influence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is starting to wane and that broader opposition to reform is building,” Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist for Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

“There’s a clear risk that the reforms, which already fell short in a number of key areas, will be watered down even further.”

“This supports our long-held view that Vision 2030 will fall short of its lofty intentions,” Tuvey added.

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Saudi-led bloc deny progress made in Qatar dispute — White House Meeting Looks Good But is “Only a Joke” — Qatar Still Allied With Iran, “Now More Than Ever”

September 8, 2017


© AFP | US President Donald Trump and Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah shake hands during a press conference at the White House on September 7, 2017

RIYADH (AFP) – A Saudi-led bloc of countries hostile to Qatar on Friday challenged statements by the Kuwaiti emir, denying his mediation has seen progress in finding a solution to the Gulf dispute.Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of bankrolling Islamist extremist groups.

Qatar, a gas-rich Gulf emirate, denies the claims and accuses the four countries of an attack on its sovereignty.

In Washington on Thursday, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah gave an upbeat assessment of his mediation efforts during a joint news conference with US President Donald Trump.

In a statement early Friday, the Saudi-led bloc questioned the emir’s statement that Qatar would be willing to accept their 13 demands.

“Dialogue on the implementation of the demands should not be preceded by any conditions,” they said in the joint statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

They also voiced “regret” about the Kuwaiti ruler’s statement “on the success of mediation in stopping military intervention”.

Instead, the four Arab states stressed in their joint statement that “the military option has not been and will not be considered in any case.”

During Thursday’s news conference, Trump offered to mediate in the crisis, saying he believed the dispute could be solved “fairly easily”.

Riyadh and Doha are both key allies of the United States. Trump chose Saudi Arabia for his first overseas visit as president in May, two weeks before the Gulf crisis erupted.

Qatar is meanwhile home to a huge US air base, where the headquarters of Centcom — the regional command which leads operations against the Islamic State jihadist group — is based.

Peace and Freedom Note:

The Saudi’s Number 1 goal of the boycott has been a divorce between Qatar and Iran. That has not happened. In fact, Iran rescued Qatar from the boycott…


Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

UN chief calls for reopening of Yemen port, airport

August 27, 2017


© AFP | UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C) arrives for a visit to Kuwait’s national assembly in Kuwait City on August 27, 2017
KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged warring parties in Yemen to allow humanitarian aid into the country amid a political stalemate that has seen violence spill into Sanaa.

“We are doing are best to create the conditions for the present stalemate to be overcome,” Guterres said after talks in Kuwait, which is leading mediation efforts in crises across the region.

His comments come after tension between Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his ally Abdul Malik al-Huthi, who control the capital Sanaa, escalated into armed clashes that left two rebels and a pro-Saleh colonel dead late Saturday.

Since 2014, the Saleh-Huthi alliance has fought the UN-recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi for control of the impoverished country.

Witnesses in the capital said the ex-president’s forces had spread in southern parts of the city near the presidential offices, which Saleh still holds despite resigning in 2012.

A Saudi-led coalition supporting the Hadi government imposed an air and sea blockade on all rebel-held territory in March 2015 and tightened it in August last year saying it was the only way to stop weapons smuggling.

Guterres said the UN was trying to facilitate the re-opening of the country’s main international airport in Sanaa as well as the Hodeida port, a key entry point for aid also in rebel-held territory.

“We will be working very closely with the (parties) to see when and how a new strong initiative will be possible,” he told a news conference.

More than 8,400 civilians have been killed and 47,800 wounded since the Arab coalition joined the war in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

Another 2,000 people have died of cholera in a deadly outbreak that has spread across Yemen since April.

Long the poorest country in the Arab world, millions of Yemeni now stand at the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.