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Straitened economic times and the fall in oil prices are putting a strain on the development of Syria’s oil and gas sector. IOCs are cutting back on investment and licensing rounds have proved disappointing. But recent changes in the Ministry of Petroleum’s organisational structure show the government is thinking seriously about making its prospects more attractive to investors.

Syria
Issue 1036 - 11 May 2017

Oman: More activists arrested

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The Internal Security Service (ISS) arrested human rights defender Ahmed Al-Bahri and internet activist Khalid Al-Ramadani in mid-April, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported.

Oman
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In the wake of the Riyadh Agreement between the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), signed on 5 November, tensions have been escalating around Aden and in Hadhramawt and Mahra provinces, further distracting from the fight by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis. The Riyadh agreement called for the Hadi government’s return to the interim capital in Aden, although prime minister Maeen Abd Al-Malek was soon faced by military personnel protesting unpaid salaries and a resurgence of assassinations of security officials in the city.

Saudi Arabia
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Three former staff members of Sheikha Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani – the prominent culture-focused full sister of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim – and her husband Sheikh Jassim Bin Abdelaziz Al-Thani are bringing an action in a New York court under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The claim against the couple was filed in November by private tutor Benjamin Boyd, personal trainer Graham Bancroft and personal security guard Chantelle McGuffie for “violations of minimum wage and overtime wage requirements, unpaid straight wages, and notice and record-keeping requirements.”

Qatar
Issue 906 - 06 August 2011

A piece of Africa in the Middle East

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The new entrants to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) area reflect the comfort felt by many Africa-focused international oil companies operating in the Kurdish environment, a feature not replicated elsewhere in the Middle East. One of the reasons for this is that KRG natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami spent much of his oil industry career working in Africa.

Iraq
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Kuwait is to hold two by-elections after a Constitutional Court ruling which effectively revoked the membership of two opposition MPs in the National Assembly (parliament). Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Harbash had been convicted by the Court of Cassation in July 2018 of storming the parliament in November 2011, during anti-corruption protests. They were both sentenced to three-and-a-half-years in jail.

Kuwait
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London-based oil and gas services company TechnipFMC has agreed to pay a $296m fine for violations of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA), in part because of bribes paid to Iraqi officials by a predecessor company, FMC Technologies over a decade ago.TechnipFMC on 25 June said it would pay a total $301.3m to resolve anti-corruption investigations with Brazilian and US authorities, the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Iran
Free

Islamic State (IS or Daesh) leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has recovered from wounds sustained in a March 2015 air strike (which apparently was not intended for him) near Shurgat on the Tigris river, and has been moving “within a tight arc of north-western Iraq and north-eastern Syria”, The Guardian newspaper reported on 27 May. Quoting on-the-ground Kurdish, Iraqi and western intelligence sources – and prisoners including captured Uzbek IS commander Hamid Khalilov – it said his refuges include Baej (where he spent six months recuperating from “a serious wound to his lower back”), Billij, Tal Afar and Mosul – none far from the Kurdish front line in northern Iraq.

Iraq
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Iraq’s oil sector resurgence has drawn fire from fellow Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) members for eroding quota discipline and pushing prices down. A fall in Saudi supply following the attack on Abqaiq may give Baghdad some breathing space to keep pumping, but that will not last long if Riyadh manages to restore capacity by the end of the month, as it has said it will.

Iraq
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King Salman Bin Abdelaziz opened the new Prince Mohammed Bin Abdelaziz international airport in Medina on 2 July. He was welcomed at the venue by his son, Medina governor Prince Faisal Bin Salman, as well as the head of the General Commission of Civil Aviation, Suleiman Bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan. He toured the airport, whose capacity is 8m passengers a year (due to rise to 18m in the second phase and 40m in the third).

Saudi Arabia
Issue 840 - 07 November 2008

Emir and HBJ: Global financial crisis

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Following early November meetings with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani (HBJ) said Qatar was willing to tackle the global financial crisis.

Qatar
Issue 1024 - 21 October 2016

Saud Al-Kabir prince executed

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The Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI) on 18 October announced the execution in Riyadh of Prince Turki Bin Saud Bin Turki Bin Saud Al-Kabir. The prince had been found guilty of killing a Saudi national following a group quarrel and was sentenced to death by the General Court. That decision was supported by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and the victim’s family would not accept blood money. A royal order was issued to execute the court rulings. In its statement the MoI said that the government was keen to keep order and bring about justice.

Saudi Arabia
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Hassan Rouhani’s landslide victory in the presidential election on 19 May – when he won 57% of the vote, removing any need for a second round – presents the second term head of government and the wider political establishment with short- and long-term challenges that will be difficult to resolve. At the most basic level, the result was a retort to the hardline conservative/principalist agenda, which has been roundly rejected by the population, allowing Rouhani to come first in 23 of the Islamic Republic’s 31 provinces.

Iran
Issue 916 - 26 January 2012

UK sends in advisers and arms

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The appointment of Sir Daniel Bethlehem – one of two British lawyers (with Sir Jeffrey Jowell) brought in to help push through the human rights recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report – was perhaps not the most sensitive choice by a government seeking to regain public support. Lurking on Bethlehem’s undeniably impressive CV is the fact that, in 2004, he defended (unsuccessfully) Israel’s separation wall at the International Court of Justice in The Hague; he was also counsel to Israel in its submissions to the Mitchell Committee in 2000-01, following the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000.

Bahrain
Issue 966 - 24 March 2014

Oman and Iran sign gas deal

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Oman and Iran have agreed to build a $1bn pipeline across the Gulf, and to export 10bcm of gas per year to Oman. State news agencies reported the deal on 12 March, during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s two-day visit to Oman, his first trip to the Gulf since becoming president in June. Oman has been looking to buy gas from Iran for years, and negotiations for this specific deal began months ago; in November, Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh had predicted a contract would be signed in mid-March (GSN 958/12). What was signed at Al Alam Palace was an “initial agreement”, which the Omanis described as a “good start”; the two sides have still not agreed on a price for the gas, however, which will come from Iran’s North Pars field.

Iran | Oman