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IAEA report: Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has risen by over a quarter in three months, according to comments by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi on 5 June. Grossi told a board of governors meeting in Vienna that “some progress” had been made on monitoring and verification. However, it was “not at the level, pace and sustained rhythm that I would expect.

Iran
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Slow moves towards peace: Yemen remains a failed state (F on GSN’s risk grade scale), with an economy and society ravaged by war (risk grade 6). Cautious moves towards achieving a sustainable peace depend on the main belligerents buying into a credible, internationally-brokered deal. Even then, dangerous non-state actors – and more covert action by governments – will likely mean Yemen remains deeply unstable for years to come.

Yemen
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Regional and international organisations Arab League Summit: Saudi Arabia provided a warm welcome to President Bashar Al-Assad on Syria’s return to the League of Arab States, at the organisation’s 32nd summit, held at the King Abdullah International Conference Centre in Jeddah on 19 May.

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Khalifa anniversary: The UAE marked the first anniversary of the death of president Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on 13 May. Khalifa had been in office since November 2004, but had largely been sidelined after suffering a stroke in early 2014. His half-brother Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ) was already the dominant figure in UAE politics and since replacing Khalifa as head of state has further entrenched the position of his branch of the family.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Fujairah and others census counting: Fujairah is preparing for the first part of its latest census, with teams of field workers due to visit all parts of the emirate starting in May, including residential and commercial premises and other facilities. A second phase is due to be carried out in Q1 2024, when the population will be counted. The project is being supervised by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Mohammed Al-Sharqi.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Falling unemployment: The unemployment rate for Saudi nationals fell to 8% in Q4 2022 from 9.9% in Q3 22, according to data released by the General Authority for Statistics (Gastat) in early April. The female jobless rate fell from 20.5% to 15.4% over the same period. The Medina region had the highest rate of unemployment among Saudis at 12.2%, followed by Jazan at 11%. Riyadh had the lowest level at 6.7%, with Eastern Province at 6.9% and Mecca at 7%. 

Saudi Arabia
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Ratings uplift: Fitch Ratings reaffirmed its AA- sovereign credit rating but upgraded its outlook from stable to positive on 28 March, citing Qatar's strong external balance sheet, low debt/gross domestic product ratio and high fiscal surplus. Fitch said the additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capacity due online from the North Field’s expansion would help to reduce an already low fiscal break-even hydrocarbon price.

Qatar
Issue 1167 - 24 April 2023

Oman: Improvement in ratings outlook

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Ratings boost: Fitch Ratings revised its outlook on Oman’s rating to positive from stable on 11 April, while affirming it at BB. S&P Global Ratings had announced the same move on 31 March. Fitch said the change reflected the improvements made in the government debt to gross domestic product ratio, with high oil prices and spending restraint reducing the external liquidity risk. Debt/GDP fell from 61% at end-2021 to 40% a year later and Fitch said it should reach 37% by end-2024.

Oman
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New government, further elections=political risk downgrade: Kuwaiti politics and government remain in flux after Crown Prince Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of the National Assembly (parliament) on 17 April, setting the scene for a third general election in as many years.

Kuwait
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Baghdad deal: Federal Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani said on 13 March that Baghdad and Erbil had reached “a comprehensive agreement” on their outstanding differences, including oil revenues. He said a deal had been reached for all Kurdish oil revenues to be placed in a bank account “without any deductions”. Those funds could be spent by the Kurdistan authorities, subject to supervision by the federal government.

Iraq
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Election law: Iraq’s parliament voted on 20 March to maintain the number of seats in the chamber at 329 for the next election. Five seats will be reserved for Christians, with one seat each reserved for the Sabean-Mandaean, Shabak, Faily Kurd and Yazidi minorities.

Iraq
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Qatar rapprochement: Efforts to rebuild relations between Manama and Doha are continuing, following a series of contacts between leading figures from both countries in January and February, including a phone call between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and Bahrain’s Prime Minister and Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa in late January and a meeting between their foreign ministers in Riyadh in early February

Bahrain
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Free trade deal taking Tehran further into Russia’s orbit: Tehran continues to negotiate a free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with local media suggesting an agreement may be signed later this year. Six rounds of talks have been held, following a temporary agreement signed in May 2018 which came into force in 2019.

Iran
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Updates on Regional and international organisations: Another Kuwaiti GCC secretary-general Regional electricity interconnection Support for Palestinians Arab League intellectual property committee World Bank leadership Updates on Opec and energy markets: Bumper year for revenues Opec+ holds solid Alternatives to the dollar? China and India are key players

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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