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There is hope of peace in Yemen, but a breakthrough between Houthi rebels and Riyadh remains just out of reach, despite extensive talks in Sanaa, where ambassador Mohammed Al-Jaber made the first senior Saudi visit since 2015. However, further talks are due to be held in May, against the backdrop of improving Saudi-Iran relations and a wider regional trend favouring diplomacy over conflict.

Saudi Arabia | Yemen | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Russian and Chinese vessels joined their Iranian counterparts in a naval exercise off Chah Bahar in the Gulf of Oman in mid-March. After two days of air defence and anti-hijacking drills, the exercise concluded with a fleet review on 19 March.

Iran
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The Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) took delivery of the first of its Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 fighter jets in March, becoming the first in the Gulf to add the aircraft to its fleet.

Bahrain
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The United States Naval Forces Central Command (Navcent) held the 18-day International Maritime Exercise 23 (IMX23) in late February and early March, with an opening ceremony for the operational phase held at US 5th Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain.

Bahrain
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The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) are to continue operating their joint Typhoon squadron for a further two years, based at RAF Coningsby in the UK.

Qatar
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The 86th Flotilla of the Iranian Navy (Nejada) docked in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil late February for a week-long port visit, having apparently bypassed the Panama Canal by taking a 7,000 nautical mile detour around South America instead. It is unclear where the flotilla is heading for next.

Iran
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The United Kingdom has denied that Saudi Arabia is set to join a multinational initiative to develop a sixth-generation fighter jet, following a claim by Saudi defence minister Prince Khalid Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia
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UAE state-owned defence conglomerate Edge Group dominated the contract awards at the latest running of the International Defence Exhibition (Idex) and Naval Defence Exhibition (Navdex) in Abu Dhabi in February.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The Qatar Emiri Naval Forces (QENF) launched its coastal missile defence system at the Umm Al-Houl naval base late February. In September 2016, Qatar signed a deal with European defence group MBDA for a coastal defence system using the extended range version of the Marte missile and Exocet MM40 Block 3 missile.

Qatar
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Iran has unveiled a new cruise missile, named the Paveh, which, with a claimed range of 1,650km, could easily reach Israel.

Iran
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Major General Pilot Sheikh Ahmed Bin Tahnoun Bin Mohammed Al-Nahyan was named deputy chief of staff of the UAE Armed Forces. He previously served as National and Reserve Service Authority chairman, overseeing the launch of national service for UAE citizens in 2014.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Control of the Asir region has fluctuated between different groups over the centuries. By the 1830s, the Al-Ayed dynasty was in control, until the area was captured by the Ottomans in the late 1860s. Saudi Arabia’s founder King Abdelaziz (Ibn Saud) brought Asir under his direct rule in the early 1920s.

Saudi Arabia
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Recent developments Attempts continue to renew the ceasefire in Yemen, but the emphasis has switched to finding a permanent settlement. Much of recent diplomatic activity has been necessarily secret. Saudi Arabia appears more urgently determined to extract itself from the war.

Yemen
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Boats based on the UK’s Bladerunner design are now operational, and can fire two active radar 90km range Nasir CM-90 anti-ship missiles developed by Iran from the Chinese C-704.

Iran
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US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the United States agreed with the United Nations consensus view that Al-Qaeda veteran Saif Al-Adel was now de facto head of the jihadist group and that he was based in Iran.

Iran