Interim Tunisian prime minister Ali Laarayedh arrived in Jeddah on 6 July on a state visit. He was received at King Abdelaziz International airport by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdelaziz; also in attendance were governor of Mecca region Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, governor of Jeddah Prince Mishal Bin Majid, chief of the crown prince’s court Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdelaziz and other senior officials.
Among the growing number of UAE-China links is the search for a cure for Covid-19. UAE government-associated company Group42 in June announced it was launching a phase three clinical trial for a vaccine in partnership with the giant Sinopharm China National Biotec Group. In a joint statement the companies said they aimed to have a vaccine ready for use “by the end of 2020 or early 2021.”
The Ruler’s Representative in Al-Dhafra Region Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been boosting his public profile with a series of engagements in the region. On 30 December he visited the Liwa International Festival, including the heritage village and the heritage market. The festival concludes on 10 January.
Iraqi Kurdistan has long promoted itself as ‘the other Iraq’, a haven of peace and stability in a country riven with violence. But as the region approaches its most important electoral test since autonomous rule from Erbil started in 1991, opposition is growing to the Kurdistan Regional Government coalition’s huge control, raising questions about the KRG’s commitment to democracy.
The takeover of one of the UK’s oldest football clubs by a previously unheard of Abu Dhabi vehicle has caused huge stirs in the UAE and in Britain – and still it remains unclear who owns the privately-held company. GSN highlights two members of the Abu Dhabi ruling family with close links to the sale.
There are positive signs – but no yet conclusive evidence – that speed is picking up in Oman’s efforts to rebalance its economy, supporting the creation of a more diverse business environment in which a new generation of entrepreneurs can operate more easily. The shift away from hydrocarbons dependency could, ironically, be helped by higher oil prices, after three bleak years in which budget and fiscal targets have been missed.
Salman Bin Abdullah Bin Faisal Bin Turki Al-Saud married a daughter of Mohammed Bin Faisal Bin Turki Al-Saud in early February, at the Palace of Culture in Riyadh. Also marrying in February were Bandar Bin Fahd Bin Bandar Bin Mohammed and a daughter of Mishaal Bin Badr Al-Jabr Al-Rashid.
Meetings with Hariri and Hamad, GCC meeting in Kuwait, Savoy hotel re-opening, Marriage, Caucasus tour, Outspoken comments on Israel
Kuwait plunged further into political crisis on 20 June, as the constitutional court ruled February’s election void and said the previous assembly should be restored. A brief statement by state news agency Kuna said “[the] court rules ‘unconstitutional’ the call for the 2012 elections and restores [the] previous assembly”.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have both announced plans which could dramatically reduce their numbers of expatriate workers. In Saudi Arabia, which has an estimated two to three million illegal foreign labourers, a crackdown has already led to mass deportations; more will follow as part of a Gulf-wide drive to get nationals into work. In Kuwait, where public animosity towards foreigners has been rising, the government says it will reduce the number of expatriates by a million over the next ten years.
The Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) has suffered the loss of one of its soldiers in Yemen. Few details were given about what happened to Warrant Officer Jumaa Mubarak Salim, whose body was returned to Isa Airbase on 26 June. The official report only said he had lost his life while serving in the BDF taskforce operating as part of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.
A Syrian identified as Yaser Mohammed Al-Barrazi and a Filipino “accomplice” were arrested in a raid on an illegal explosives factory in Riyadh, the Ministry of Interior said on 3 October. Al-Barrazi has been accused of plotting attacks. The raid, which took place on 1 October, found two explosives belts and bomb-making equipment. Those arrested belonged to a “deviant group”, the ministry said, using terminology often applied by the authorities to Al-Qaeda or Islamic State affiliates.
Kuwait’s next election – if it takes place, as expected, before 7 December – will be the sixth in a decade. Parliamentary polls have been held in July 2003, June 2006,May 2008,May 2009 and, most recently, February 2012 (see main story).
The Baghdad government has held talks with Moscow on an order for up to $1bn-worth of tanks, Russian media reported. President Vladimir Putin discussed the deal to supply T-90 tanks with Vice President Nuri Al-Maliki in Moscow on 25 July, according to the TASS news agency.
While many chose anonymity, Ahmed Mansoor Ali Abdullah Al-Abd Al-Shehi argued that, as a proud Emirati who simply wanted to help his nation develop, he had no reason to hide his identity. “It’s because I care for my country that I feel these issues need to be discussed,”
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