Posts Tagged ‘UAE’

Tillerson heads back to deal with Gulf crisis — Meetings in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan

October 20, 2017


© AFP / by Francesco FONTEMAGGI | Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not expecting a breakthrough in the stand-off between Qatar and Saudi Arabia as he travels to the region
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States will again try to resolve a Gulf crisis that Washington has alternatively fueled or tried to soothe, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads back to the region.The top US diplomat did not himself hold out much hope of an immediate breakthrough in the stand-off between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but the trip may clarify the issues at stake.

“I do not have a lot of expectations for it being resolved anytime soon,” Tillerson admitted on Thursday, in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency.

“There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage.”

Nevertheless, President Donald Trump’s chief envoy is to leave Washington this weekend for Saudi Arabia and from there head on to Qatar, to talk through a breakdown in ties.

Trump, having initially exacerbated the split by siding with Riyadh and denouncing Qatar for supporting terrorism at a “high level,” has predicted the conflict will be resolved.

Tillerson, a former chief executive of energy giant ExxonMobil, knows the region well, having dealt with its royal rulers while negotiating oil and gas deals.

But the latest diplomatic spat is a tricky one, pitching US allies against one another even as Washington is trying to coordinate opposition to Iran and to Islamist violence.

– Major air base –

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

The sides have been at an impasse since then, despite efforts by Kuwait — and a previous unsuccessful trip by Tillerson in July — to mediate the crisis.

The blockade has had an impact on Qatar’s gas-rich economy, and created a new rift in an already unstable Middle East, with Turkey siding with Qatar and Egypt with the Gulf.

Iran, Washington’s foe, only stands to benefit from a split in the otherwise pro-Western camp, and US military leaders are quietly concerned about the long-term effects.

Trump, after initially vocally support the effort to isolate Qatar despite its role as a military ally and host of a major US airbase, has not called for a negotiated resolution.

Tillerson says there has been little movement.

“It’s up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear — they’re ready to engage,” he said.

“Our role is to try to ensure lines of communication are as open as we can help them be, that messages not be misunderstood,” he said.

“We’re ready to play any role we can to bring them together but at this point it really is now up to the leadership of those countries.”

Simon Henderson, a veteran of the region now at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, said the parties may humor US mediate but won’t want to lose face to each other.

“Tillerson will say: ‘Come on kids, grow up and wind down your absurd demands. And let’s work on a compromise on your basic differences’,” he said.

Riyadh’s demands of Qatar are not entirely clear, but it has demanded Qatar cool its ties with Iran, end militant financing and rein in Doha-based Arabic media like Al-Jazeera.

“I haven’t seen Qatar make any concession at all other than to say negotiation is the way out of this,” Henderson said.

“The problem is that people, mainly the Saudis and the Emiratis, don’t want to loose face. It needs America to step in, but to save face, they should try to make this a Gulf-mediated enterprise with American support.”

Kuwait has tried to serve at a mediator, with US support, but the parties have yet to sit down face-to-face.

After his visit to Riyadh and Doha, Tillerson is to fly on to New Delhi in order to build what he said in a speech this week could be a 100-year “strategic partnership” with India.

Tillerson will stop in Islamabad to try to sooth Pakistani fears about this Indian outreach, but also pressure the government to crack down harder on Islamist militant groups.

by Francesco FONTEMAGGI

United Arab Emirates says to announce government reshuffle on Thursday

October 19, 2017


DUBAI (Reuters) – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, said in a tweet a government reshuffle will be announced later on Thursday.

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FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum attends the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Hamed

Saudi Cabinet hails Trump’s Iran stance, reiterates support for fight against terrorism

October 18, 2017

RIYADH: King Salman headed Saudi Arabia’s latest Cabinet session on Tuesday afternoon at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh.

RIYADH: The king briefed the Cabinet on his phone call with US President Donald Trump, saying he had expressed the Kingdom’s support for Trump’s firm stance on Iran and his condemnation of Iran’s support for terrorism in the region.

King Salman also briefed the Cabinet on his recent talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, during which they discussed the bilateral relations and reviewed the region’s events.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the king revealed, had briefed him on the recent reconciliation agreement between Abbas’ Fatah-backed Palestinian National Authority and Hamas. King Salman observed that unity will enable the Palestinian government to better serve its citizens.

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The king also briefed the Cabinet on his phone call with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, in which he stated that the Kingdom fully supports the unity, security and stability of Iraq, as well as the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi Constitution.

Minister of Culture and Information, Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, said in his statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the Cabinet had reviewed the Justice Ministry’s submissions on the transferal of commercial disputes from the jurisdiction of the Board of Grievances to specialized commercial courts, which he described as “a great leap forward” in the Kingdom’s legal system.

The Cabinet condemned the attacks that targeted security points in the city of Al-Arish in Egypt, the two bombings in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and the attack on the Djimbi mosque in the Central African Republic. It also reiterated its continuous support of countries fighting terrorism.

The Cabinet approved several mandates from ministers to draft memoranda of understanding with other countries, including the Republic of Korea, Morocco and the UAE, as well as a new system to regulate the trading of petroleum products.


Qatar accuses Saudi Arabia of promoting ‘regime change’

October 18, 2017

Al Jazeera

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says the blockading nations' plan is to 'disrespect and bully' [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says the blockading nations’ plan is to ‘disrespect and bully’ [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]

Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of trying to engineer “regime change” during its four-month blockade of its Gulf neighbour.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told CNBC on Tuesday that Riyadh is attempting to destabilise Qatar’s leadership.

“We see [Saudi] government officials talking about regime change… We see a country that is bringing back the dark ages of tribes and putting them together in order to create a pressure on connected tribes in Qatar,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting “extremism and terrorism” and cozying up to Iran – a regional nemesis.

Qatar has vehemently denied all allegations.

Sheikh Mohammed said the plan of the blockading countries was not to thwart terrorism but to “disrespect and bully”.

“It is nothing to do with stopping financing terrorism or hate speech while they are doing the same by promoting incitement against my country, promoting a regime change in my country,” he told the US broadcaster.

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and also houses the region’s biggest US military base with more than 11,000 American troops.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

Sheikh Mohammed said the blockade has impeded the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the region.

The airspace blockade meant that Qatari aircraft providing logistical support for the American military base have been diverted, and Qatari officers participating in operations against ISIL were expelled from the Bahrain-based US military headquarters.

“So there are a lot of things which undermine … the global efforts in countering … Daesh,” Sheikh Mohammed said, referring to ISIL by an Arabic acronym.

Malaysia: PM confident Saudi Arabia understands Malaysia-Qatar ties

October 17, 2017

| October 16, 2017

Najib Razak says although Malaysia enjoys special relationship with Saudi Arabia, it has good cooperation with all countries.

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PUTRAJAYA: Bilateral relations between Malaysia and Qatar, specifically in the trade sector, is strong despite the Middle Eastern nation facing a crisis with other Gulf countries.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said this was so as relations between the two countries had been well established for the past 43 years.

He said Malaysia was known as a country that enjoyed good cooperation with all others, as well as with Muslim nations, as it practiced the principle of ‘wasatiyyah’ (moderation).

Najib said although Malaysia had a special relationship with Saudi Arabia, which cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani’s visit to Malaysia has not raised any problem.

Najib said he was confident the Saudi government understood Malaysia’s stand.

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Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, right, speaks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, and Malaysian King Sultan Muhammad V, after inspecting an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at parliament house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.

“We will continue to maintain the relationship (with Saudi Arabia) at its best, but this does not prevent us from having ties, especially economic relations, with Qatar,” he said in a press conference after meeting Sheikh Tamim Hamad at Seri Perdana here, today.

Also present were Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and Minister with Special Functions in the Prime Minister’s Department Hishammuddin Hussein.

On June 5, five Gulf nations, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Yemen announced the decision to break ties with Qatar, on grounds that the country supported terrorism.

Asked whether the Emir of Qatar wanted Malaysia as mediator between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Najib said, “It may be beyond Malaysia’s capacity to become a mediator or offer itself as a mediator.

“But they (Qatar) know Malaysia is a country that they can rely on to play a positive part in the conflict’s resolution, in matters of principle.”

Najib said during the meeting, the two leaders also discussed cooperation on anti-terrorism and security.

He said the Emir of Qatar was serious about fighting terrorism, and hoped for continued cooperation with Malaysia to address the issue.

“The Rohingya issue was also discussed, in which Qatar is aware that Malaysia is at the forefront of helping the Rohingyas, as well as in the construction of a ‘field hospital’ at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

“I also raised Qatar’s promise to contribute US$50 million (for the Rohingya) during the Deputy Prime Minister’s (Zahid Hamidi) visit to Qatar. The mechanism on how the donation can be channelled, will now be determined,” he said.

How Qatar crisis played a role in Azoulay’s election as UNESCO chief

October 16, 2017


© Thomas Samson, AFP | French former culture minister and new UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay arrives on October 13, 2017 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Text by Anna SANSOM

Latest update : 2017-10-16

The election of France’s former culture minister Audrey Azoulay as UNESCO’s new director-general is partly due to the crisis between Qatar and Saudi-led Gulf countries.

On October 13, Azoulay was elected to become UNESCO’s director-general for the next four years, beating the Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari by 30 votes to 28. Her victory is emblematic of how the collapse of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar hampered a candidate from the Arab region’s chances to lead the Paris-headquartered international organisation.

Despite intense campaigning using Qatar’s financial might, Al-Kawari lost out due to his country’s diplomatic isolation among Arab countries. After two rounds of voting by the 58 members of UNESCO’s executive board, Al-Kawari led by 22 votes, but was deprived of a clear majority by Egypt’s candidate, Moushira Khattab, and Azoulay.

Egypt belongs to the Saudi-led coalition that has cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Coincidentally, out of the nine candidates vying for the UNESCO post, four – also including Lebanon and Iraq – came from Arab countries.

Azoulay, whose father was an adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and who served as culture minister during François Hollande’s presidency, would have had more trouble winning if the Arab countries had managed to present a united front.

“The appointment of Audrey Azoulay is highly unusual as she comes from the country that hosts UNESCO but it is a sign of the times,” Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, associate fellow at London-based thinktank Chatham House, told FRANCE 24.

“Internal divisions in the Arab world, especially between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the failure of the Arab world to form a consensus around a single candidate are emblematic of divisions in the region,” said Vinjamuri.

“France‘s rise, and in this case the appointment of Azoulay, should help to mitigate some of the politics that have divided UNESCO in recent years.”

Indeed, just one day before Azoulay’s win, the US announced its intention to withdraw from UNESCO by the end of 2018. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” the US State Department said in a statement. It added that the US hoped to remain engaged as a non-member observer state.

The US withdrawal was largely due to the country’s view that UNESCO has an anti-Israel bias. In July, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, called UNESCO’s listing of the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian Chatham Houseworld heritage site an “affront to history”.

Israel followed suit and is also preparing to withdraw from UNESCO, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has derided as a “theatre of the absurd”, saying in a statement that: “Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”

The US’s anti-UNESCO stance predates the Donald Trump administration. In 1984, the US quit UNESCO but re-entered in 2003 under President Barack Obama. In 2011, the Obama administration cut annual funding of around $80 million after Palestine became a full member. The US’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO a second time is dramatic, Vinjamuri believes, and expresses a lack of interest in “soft power” politics, such as science and culture.

“The US decision is clearly meant to be a dramatic, sharp departure which goes in line with much of President Trump has been doing, which is taking the US out of things,” Vinjamuri said. “It’s making a big, bold, brash statement about the US not staying in international organisations or meeting its international agreements and is part of Trump’s house-clearing exercise to reduce costs. Leaving UNESCO accelerates and exacerbates the game of America under the current administration, of not co-operating with Europe, and is inflammatory and damaging to America.”

Asked about how Israel’s departure could affect the status of the old city of Hebron as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Vinjamuri replied: “Israel’s departure is not going to change UNESCO’s decision on that, or on any material designation of somewhere as a cultural heritages site.”

“UNESCO isn’t going to be begging for Israel to come back,” Vinjamuri asserted. “UNESCO will move forward and Israel will be left behind, while the US will try to influence from the outside. It’s possible that the US may return again in the future but that’s a long way off at this point.”

Azoulay is expected to take office on November 15, 2017.


Qatar’s Iran Alliance Likely To Cause a Loss of Leverage

October 14, 2017

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By Dr. Manuel Almeida

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Qatar last week, his second this year, was the latest in a series of diplomatic moves that brought Doha and Tehran closer in recent months.

In the highly transactional sphere of international politics, there are hardly points of no-return. Yet the latest Qatari leap toward Tehran could prove further down the line to have gone a step too far, not only from the perspective of the three Gulf states that cut ties with Doha, but mainly when it comes to Qatar’s own loss of leverage.

By choice or sheer necessity, rapprochements that looked unlikely until they happened have been quite common in recent years between local players and with outside powers as well — a natural consequence of the Middle East’s constant state of turmoil.

Only last week, King Salman’s historic visit to Russia culminated the process of warming ties and aligning interests with Moscow. Two years ago, Riyadh appointed a resident ambassador to Baghdad, the first since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This year, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir paid a landmark visit to the Iraqi capital.

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The collapse of Turkey’s foreign policy — grounded in a deeply ideological, neo-Ottoman outlook as envisioned by its chief architect, former Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — also opened the door to fresh diplomatic starts. After a six-year rift going back to the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010, Turkey and Israel reached a deal to normalize relations in June last year.

Mounting tensions between Ankara and Moscow over Syria’s conflict, despite their significant trade ties, peaked after Turkey shot down a Russian military plane over Turkish airspace. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan eventually issued an apology, calling Russia a “friend and strategic partner.” Today, Turkey acts as a close partner of Russia, while its relations with the US have hit an all-time low.

Since the eruption in June of the ongoing diplomatic crisis centered on Qatar, Doha has restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran. Among other Qatari violations of the accord signed by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in 2013 are non-interference in the internal affairs of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and support for extremist groups. These are the same kinds of threatening activities most of Iran’s neighbors accuse Tehran of.

Early last year, Qatar recalled its ambassador in Tehran after the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. But following sanctions imposed by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Doha restored full diplomatic ties with Tehran in August. A Qatari Foreign Ministry statement read: “The state of Qatar expressed its aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields.”

Tehran is very capable of placing Doha in an uncomfortable position, should it choose to do so.

Dr. Manuel Almeida

That Qatar and Iran share the North Field, a huge offshore natural gas field that is the key source of Qatar’s massive wealth, is sufficient reason to maintain a basic working relationship with Tehran.

Yet under the previous emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, bilateral relations developed significantly. Under his successor Sheikh Tamim, there was the promise of a more balanced foreign policy. But in 2016, that did not prevent Qatar from voting against UN Security Council 1969, which called on Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program. Qatar was the only council member that voted against it.

Despite its GCC membership, the small emirate and Iran have in common a highly populist and disruptive foreign policy, often based on steering trouble abroad by supporting extremist groups of all sorts. Crucially, this is what distinguishes Qatar from Oman, which has tried to maintain an equidistant policy toward Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The talks between the pro-Islamist governments of Qatar and Turkey on the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar, which started long before the current diplomatic crisis, were already another sign of Doha’s significant differences with its Arab Gulf neighbors. In June, Erdogan, who calls Sheikh Tamim “brother,” fast-tracked a bill through Parliament to allow Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar.

Turkey’s growing military umbrella might offer some assurances to Doha, but there is plenty the far more powerful Iranian regime can do to place Qatar in an uncomfortable position. They are still fighting a proxy war in Syria, their interests do not align on every issue, and there will be other crises that will seriously test the relationship.

One of these crises could be the rising tensions between the Trump administration and Israel on the one hand, and Tehran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the various terrorist groups and militias that Iran backs across the region on the other. The US military base of Al-Udeid, southwest of Doha, could turn from a security guarantee to a problem for Qatar’s leap toward Tehran.

• Dr. Manuel Almeida is a political analyst and consultant focusing on the Middle East. He is the former editor of the English online edition of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, and holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Twitter: @_ManuelAlmeida

Qatar crisis sends tremors through banking in the Gulf

October 13, 2017

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By Simeon Kerr

While north Africa and the Levant have been beset by revolt and civil war in Syria and Libya in recent years, the Gulf states have remained a haven of relative stability. However, the political isolation of gas-rich Qatar this year has brought uncertainty to oil-wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council nations already suffering economic damage from the crude price collapse three years ago.

In June, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led Bahrain and Egypt in closing airports and seaports to Qatar, claiming it fostered terrorism. Doha denies this but is now isolated from the leading GCC powers.

Travel and trade restrictions leave Qatar facing significant costs, with credit rating agency Moody’s saying the its future depends on the outcome of the crisis. “The severity of the diplomatic dispute between Gulf countries is unprecedented, which magnifies the uncertainty over the ultimate economic, fiscal and social impact on the GCC as a whole,” says Steffen Dyck, a senior credit officer at Moody’s.

Bankers are adjusting to a likely protracted dispute, in addition to lower government spending that has constrained growth in the region since oil prices collapsed.

As banks from the four nations began removing term deposits held in Qatar, Doha drew on its vast wealth to sustain its economy. Moody’s says Qatar injected almost $40bn out of reserves of $340bn to support its economy and financial system during the first two months of the dispute.

Before the crisis, overseas customer deposits made up about a quarter of all deposit funding in the banking sector but that has fallen to an estimated 18-19 per cent, according to Fitch, the rating agency. In June and July, there were large net outflows of non-domestic customer deposits of $8bn and of overseas deposits and borrowings of $15bn, according to official data. More outflows of GCC money are expected as deposits mature, Fitch says.

However, in that period the government and public sector have placed deposits in the banking system of about $19bn, while central bank support amounted to $9bn, Fitch says.

“Fundamentally, the outflow of non-domestic money is being replaced by an inflow of domestic money,” says Redmond Ramsdale, a senior director of financial institutions at Fitch Ratings. Fitch says overseas money is starting to return. Central bank statistics show overall funding for the Qatari banking sector rose in August, up 1 per cent on July.

Asian banks have been rolling over deposits, albeit at higher premiums of 25 to 30 basis points. Qatar National Bank closed a $630m Formosa bond issue in Taiwan in September, signalling confidence among many Asian investors. “We are extending our lines of credit to Qatari clients,” says one banker with an Asian institution. “There is good money to be made.”

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Most international lenders have continued normal relations with Qatar. “We are a global bank operating across a broad political spectrum, we are not party to any dispute,” says a senior banker with a European lender. “So we will abide by any international sanctions, but beyond that it is business as usual.”

As global finance adjusts to the new geopolitical realities, Qatar will have to pay five to 10 basis points more than before the crisis to raise money on capital markets, says one banker with a US institution. “The credit needs to be reset and the sovereign needs to issue first. But Qatar is a small country, sitting on large reserves . . . so we aren’t concerned.”

Some officials in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, have called on international companies to choose between the UAE and Qatar. Bankers say UAE-owned institutions are reluctant to grant mandates to banks with significant Qatari shareholders. And some foreign bankers are worried about losing business in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We have to be very careful about being seen to do business with Qatar,” says another Asian banker.

The sense that regional businesses are being forced to take sides is a problem for some bankers in the Dubai International Financial Centre. “No one wins from this situation and we all pay a price . . . there is a regional impact,” says the European banker.

The DIFC, a special economic zone that is a base for more than 21,000 workers and 1,750 companies, positions itself as the regional launch pad for international financiers. The centre grew at 6 per cent in the first half of 2017, despite fears that the cost of doing business in Dubai makes the city less competitive in the tougher trading climate with lower oil prices.

Doha airport, once an hour’s hop from Dubai, is now reached via Oman or Kuwait. This means Qatari clients cannot travel to the UAE to meet financiers and manage portfolios.

Executives fear that Dubai will be hit by the collapse in trade with Qatar, once a main export destination for construction materials. Qatar is in the middle of a $200bn infrastructure investment for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s imports slumped by 40 per cent year on year for June 2017 as the boycott bit. Imports from the UAE fell by two-thirds in the same month, illustrating its importance as an import-export hub for Doha.

Much of this re-export business has moved to Oman, which — like Kuwait — has remained neutral. Imports rebounded in August, showing Qatar’s ability to limit the embargo’s impact by switching supply routes. “The Qatar crisis will not bring Dubai down, but it is natural to expect an impact,” says the European banker.

Officials concede that Dubai cannot disentangle itself from the UAE’s role in the embargo. The UAE central bank ordered lenders in the federation to impose enhanced due diligence measures on six Qatari lenders. The DIFC’s regulator has also told entities operating in the centre to follow these measures, according to a document seen by the FT.

Some DIFC entities have expressed concern about a requirement to detail compliance procedures relating to their dealings with well-known lenders including Qatar National Bank, one of the region’s largest. “I thought we’d signed up to an international financial centre,” says one western banker. “Not one exposed to local politics.”

Mideast nations turn to private sector after oil slump

October 11, 2017


© AFP/File | Oil-rich governments across the Middle East, including in Kuwait whose Shuaiba oil refinery is seen here, are increasingly relying on the private sector for investment

DUBAI (AFP) – Oil-rich governments from Tripoli to Tehran are increasingly relying on the private sector in a key change across the Middle East and North Africa, a report said Wednesday.

The value of public-private partnership (PPP) projects across the region, including those still in the pipeline, has more than doubled to $185 billion (155 billion euros) over the past year, the Dubai-based Middle East Economic Digest wrote.

The sharp increase comes as governments have ramped up efforts to get the private sector involved in financing, building and operating public infrastructure projects in a bid to offset shrinking income from oil since crude prices began to fall in mid-2014.

“The rise of PPP over the past few years is one of the most strategically significant shifts in the business landscape of the Middle East since the nationalisation of the oil industry in the early 1970s,” the report said.

Kuwait topped the list with joint projects worth $44.4 billion, followed by Libya with $36 billion, the United Arab Emirates with $27.6 billion and Iran with $14.3 billion worth of projects.

The figures exclude any investments in the key energy sector.

The report said that nearly two-thirds of the projects, worth around $100 billion, are in the planning stages and are expected to be awarded in the next five to six years.

Countries across the region, especially those in the Gulf, have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in oil income due to the slide of crude prices.

Yemen police arrest Islamists after deadly Aden bombing

October 11, 2017


© AFP | Jihadists have carried out attacks against Yemeni forces in Aden, shown here in April 2016 following a suicide attack targeting a police chief

ADEN (AFP) – Yemeni police have arrested 10 members of the Islamist Al-Islah party, the group said Wednesday, following a roadside bombing that killed a cleric with ties to the United Arab Emirates.

Imam Yassin al-Adani, a Yemeni cleric who serves as spiritual advisor to UAE troops allied with the government in Yemen’s war, was killed on Saturday when a roadside bomb struck his car near the Zayed mosque in the southern city of Aden, multiple security sources told AFP.

The cleric’s 12-year-old son was also injured in the attack, the sources said.

In a statement received by AFP Wednesday, Al-Islah said police had arrested 10 members of the Sunni Islamist movement, including under-secretary general Mohammed Abdulmalik and a field commander.

The statement made no mention of Saturday’s bombing.

Al-Islah is a key member in a southern alliance that also brings together Yemeni tribes and southern separatists and has historically had links to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE blacklists as a terrorist organisation.

Yemen’s complex war pits a government alliance, backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, against a rebel camp with ties to Iran. Jihadist groups, including the Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda, have also flourished in the chaos of war, primarily in the southern governorates.

Foreign diplomats in the Gulf say the UAE’s goals in the Yemen war include gaining control of the country’s Red Sea ports and driving Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) out of the south.

Northern Yemen, until 1990 independent from south Yemen, is controlled by the Shiite Huthi rebels.

The United States also regularly conducts drone strikes aimed at targets identified as affiliated with AQAP.

More than 8,500 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Yemen war in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN has also warned of mass starvation in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world.