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Growth in defence spending by Gulf Co-operation Council countries slowed significantly in 2023, but heightened tensions as a result of the Gaza war could prompt another acceleration in military outlays this year.

Saudi Arabia | Qatar
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The Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund has been signing contracts with more lobbying and communications specialists, as it continues to face political scrutiny over its investments in the United States.

Saudi Arabia
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None of the Gulf’s emerging ´middle powers’ have issued a detailed policy document setting out their approach to projecting soft power, even as they continue to spend extravagantly while drawing in investment and talent. Autocracies have no real need to orchestrate the sort of public debate that might follow, even if they regularly sound out local opinion via traditional diwans or more modern polling techniques — not to mention ever more pervasive surveillance of their citizens and others’ communications.

Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Plans by the Saudi state-owned Public Investment Fund to remodel the world of professional golf continue to cause controversy in Washington, where senators are taking a dim view of the fund’s approach to their inquiries. That is not denting the PIF’s sporting appetite though, with cycling, rugby and motorsport deals in the pipeline.

Saudi Arabia
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Deals signed at the World Defence Show with Lockheed Martin, Saab, Thales and other international companies highlight how Riyadh is continuing to push for more weaponry to be developed inside the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia
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Saudi Aramco said on 17 January it would increase the capital allotted to its global venture capital arm Aramco Ventures, from $3bn to $7bn over the next four years.

Saudi Arabia
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Emir Sheikh Mishaal travelled to Riyadh on 30 January for talks with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, further cementing the bilateral relationship. Mishaal then went to Oman in early February to attend the inauguration of Duqm refinery with Sultan Haitham.

Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | Oman
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Royal Commission for Al-Ula chief executive Amr Bin Saleh Al-Madani has been arrested for money laundering and other offences, according to the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), in a sign that the authorities’ patience with public servants enriching themselves is wearing thin.

Saudi Arabia
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The Saudi government has told Saudi Aramco to scrap a plan to increase its maximum production capacity to 13m b/d, as first announced in March 2020. It is not clear how much progress Aramco had made in pursuing the goal.

Saudi Arabia
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Former Asir governor Prince Faisal Bin Khalid Bin Abdelaziz has purchased an unspecified stake in White Abarrio, ahead of the champion racehorse’s appearance in the $20m Saudi Cup on 24 February.

Saudi Arabia
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Efforts to bring the Gaza conflict to an end continue, with little apparent prospect of short-term success. Arab states are pushing for Israel to end its bombardment but there is just as much focus on trying to ensure the war doesn’t escalate into a regional conflagration. A key challenge is the Houthis’ campaign against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, which Washington and allies are struggling to counter despite a major attack on targets in Yemen on 12 January.

Iran | Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Yemen | Oman | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Israel | Palestine
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The Saudi government said its non-oil mineral resources are now thought to be worth some $2.5trn, based on recent discoveries and rising demand for rare earth elements. It is following the UAE’s lead in looking to strike deals with African mineral producers such as Democratic Republic of Congo.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1183 - 09 January 2024

Princess Haifa named ambassador to Spain

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From the ruling family’s Al-Muqrin branch, new Saudi ambassador in Madrid Princess Haifa Bint Abdelaziz previously served as the kingdom’s envoy to the UN’s cultural and educational arm Unesco.

Saudi Arabia
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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s favoured Public Investment Fund has been among the most prominent clients of US lobbying and legal firms over the past year, as Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen its relations with Washington and support its subsidiaries’ investments in the American market.

Saudi Arabia
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The Saudi offer of long-term tax incentive comes just before new rules are introduced in January stipulating that international companies must base their regional headquarters in the kingdom if they want to compete for government contracts. Saudi Arabia has made the most high-profile recent moves to attract foreign investment, but even the more conservative Kuwait and ‘revolutionary’ Iran are easing terms for incomers.

Saudi Arabia