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South Yemen continues to be the focus of tensions within the Saudi-led coalition, as the power vacuum created by war has enlivened historical animosities and provided both opportunity and incentive for local politicians to pursue greater self-rule. This has been highlighted by fighting between groups backed by different coalition members – notably the Southern Transition Council (STC) backed by the UAE and forces allied to the internationally recognised President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, supported by Saudi Arabia.

Yemen
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Ruler Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, who is president of the University of Sharjah, on 4 June underlined longstanding support for the arts when he opened the university’s College of Fine Arts and Design graduate show. Sheikh Sultan is also president of the American University of Sharjah (AUS), where, on 12 June, he chaired a trustees meeting that agreed measures to further promote AUS’ ambitions to become a significant research university.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 1032 - 23 February 2017

Mohammed Bin Rashid: Tech-friendly talks

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Dubai royals have been doing their best to bolster the emirate’s tech credentials with a series of meetings with senior industry figures. Vice President and prime minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) held talks with electric car pioneer Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk on 13 February. The following day, MBR inspected a new ‘autonomous aerial vehicle’ developed by China’s Ehang Company. The drone-like vehicle is capable of carrying a human.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 1027 - 01 December 2016

Oman: Sultan Qaboos sightings

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Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said has made a rare public appearance, for Oman’s National Day celebrations, where he presided over a military parade. In recent weeks the sultan – who has significant health issues – has met several foreign dignitaries including US secretary of state John Kerry, who praised Oman’s role as a mediator in regional disputes and British Royals Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Kuwait
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Saudi investor and businessman Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud spoke openly about Saudi-US relations and President Barack Obama’s second term in a late November interview with the Wall Street Journal. The paper noted that, although Alwaleed holds no important government post, “it is hard to shake the impression that here is the uncensored id of the reserved House of Saud”. The prince – who has not had an easy time recently with the US media, particularly Forbes (GSN 942/12) – said “America is shooting itself in the foot… we love the United States.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1020 - 29 July 2016

UAE: MBZ visits Qatar

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed arrived in Qatar on 20 July for one-day visit. He was met at Doha International Airport by Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. The two went on to a luncheon banquet and formal talks at Al-Bahr Palace.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Press reports in January have revived the idea that the Canadian government might end arms exports to Saudi Arabia as a result of human rights concerns. Foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland’s spokesman Adam Austen was quoted in The Globe and Mail on 24 January as saying the government was “hitting the pause button on approval of new permits” while it carried out an investigation into Riyadh’s deployment of Canadian-made armoured vehicles against Saudi residents.

Saudi Arabia
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President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has continued to hold meetings with Emirati dignitaries while on holiday in France, proviking considerable comment after the UAE head of state’s many years of staying out of the limelight. Following his publicised meeting with his Bani Fatima half-brother Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed on 9 June, Sheikh Khalifa held talks on 15 July with Ajman Ruler and Supreme Council Member Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al-Nuaimi at his residence in the French spa town of Evian.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Saudi Aramco has been given regulatory approval to develop the Al-Jafurah shale gas field in Eastern Province, the kingdom’s largest non-associated gas field. The resource covers an area of 170km by 100km; Aramco said it was believed to hold some 200trn cubic feet of rich raw gas (without defining whether these reserves were proven or otherwise, and what percentage of that gas it expects could be recovered). If exploited, these reserves could be used as feedstock for the petrochemicals industry, thereby helping with economic diversification efforts, and/or displace crude and fuel oil from power generation.

Saudi Arabia
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First deputy prime minister and defence minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah returned to Kuwait on 9 November, having spent time in London and Tashkent recuperating from cancer treatment. He had been due to meet well-wishers at the Armed Forces Officers Club on Gulf Street on the evening of 11 November, but the event was called off two days beforehand; the Ministry of Defence cited heavy rainfall as the reason. Among those who sent messages of support was the heir to the UK throne, Prince Charles.

Kuwait
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Qatar has given its French portfolio a considerable boost over recent months, taking full control of football club Paris St Germain (PSG) and increasing its stakes in Lagardère, Vivendi, Total and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH). The close political relationship between Paris and Doha has often translated into the business arena. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the heir apparent who chairs the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), is said to be particularly close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who awarded him the Legion d’Honneur with rank of grand officer in February 2010 (GSN 871/6).

Qatar
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Musallam Al-Barrak, one of the best-known faces of Kuwait’s opposition, was sentenced to two years in jail on 22 February for insulting the emir. The sentence, handed down by the appeals court, is shorter than the original five years he was given in April 2013; his legal team is expected to challenge the ruling at the court of cassation. The case dates back to October 2012, when Barrak, in a speech at an opposition rally, said the opposition would fight autocracy.

Kuwait
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Informed observers have long noted that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) likes to surround himself with trusted allies from among the younger generation of the Al-Saud, who have a similar educational background and interests as himself. According to a veteran observer of the Al-Saud, “MBS likes young people around him, he finds it awkward to deal with the older generation”. A source who worked in and around MBS’s Vision 2030 programme commented that the crown prince “doesn’t trust some of the older princes and has preferred to socialise with the younger ones”.

Saudi Arabia
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Among the most vocal princes in articulating Saudi anti-terrorism policy has been prominent businessman Prince Mohammed Al-Faisal. In a 2 September interview with The Washington Times -

Saudi Arabia
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In an incident described as an “unpleasant surprise” by the chief executive of Utrecht-based engineering firm Strukton, agents from Dutch anti-fraud office the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) raided the company’s offices in mid-February, apparently in search of suspicious payments linked to a large contract on the Riyadh metro which may have ended up in the hands of the late Prince Mishaal Bin Abdelaziz.

Saudi Arabia