GULF REGION in February 2023
1 February 2023
- Saudi Economy Grew by 8.7% in 2022 (Al Khaleej Online). Official data showed that the real gross domestic product in Saudi Arabia during the fourth quarter of 2022 recorded growth of 5.4 percent compared to the same period in the previous year 2021, while the real gross domestic product during the year 2022 achieved a growth of 8.7 percent, on an annual basis. This is the Kingdom’s highest growth rate since 2011, when the economy grew by 10 percent.
- Energy and Defense at Forefront of Qatari-Japanese Strategic Dialogue (Al Khaleej Online). Doha and Tokyo discussed expanding joint investments in the field of clean energy and enhancing defense cooperation, and in the field of cybersecurity, in addition to agreeing to exempt Qataris from entry visas to Japan.
- US Seizes Narcotics Worth $33 Million in the Gulf of Oman (Al Khaleej Online). A US Coast Guard vessel seized 4,000 kilograms of hashish and 512 kilograms of methamphetamine worth a total estimated U.S. street value of $33 million from a fishing vessel transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman on January 30.
2 February 2023
- Kuwait Thwarts Largest Drug Smuggling Operation in its History (Al Khaleej Online). The Kuwaiti security services managed to thwart the largest drug smuggling operation in its history, which consisted of about 15 million narcotic tablets of the type “Lyrica,” and more than half a ton of raw lyrica powder.
- Saudi Arabia and Turkey are Discussing Military Cooperation (Al Khaleej Online). The Saudi Chief of the General Staff and the Turkish Deputy Minister of National Defense discussed the strategic relations between the two countries, especially in the field of defense and military cooperation, and ways to enhance it.
- French Foreign Minister Makes First Visit to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi (Al Sharq Al-Awsat). French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna’s visit includes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates…Paris pointed the finger at Iran, which it considers to be “pursuing a destabilizing policy, whether through its proxies in the region or directly,” referring to the nuclear files and the proliferation of Iranian drones and missiles. It went so far as to accuse Iran of “contributing to war crimes” being committed in Ukraine by providing the drones that Russian forces use in their attacks on Ukrainian facilities, including civilian infrastructure.
3 February 2023
- Saudi Arabia and Iraq Announce Cooperation to Reduce Regional Tension (Al Jazeera). Saudi Arabia and Iraq announced on Thursday that the two countries are working together to reduce tension in the region and enhance its stability, during a visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan…Since 2021, Baghdad has been hosting talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the last of which took place in April 2022 to end the estrangement that has extended since 2016, in the hope of reaching understandings regarding differences in several files, most notably the Yemen war.
- Doha Hosts Fifth Qatari-American Strategic Dialogue (Al Khaleeji Online). Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani discussed with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland the strengthening of bilateral relations, especially in the field of energy, as well as regional issues such as the security of the region and the Palestinian cause and others.
- King Salman Dismisses Saudi Central Bank Governor (Al Sharq Al Awsat). King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a royal order to relieve Dr. Fahd bin Abdullah bin Abdul Latif Al-Mubarak, governor of the Saudi Central Bank, from his post, and to appoint him as an advisor in the royal court with the rank of “minister.” The orders also require the appointment of Ayman
bin Muhammad. Bin Saud Al-Sayyari, Governor of the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia, with the rank of minister.
9 February 2023
- UAE and Italy Discuss Military Relations (Al Khaleej Online). After diplomatic tension, especially after the cancellation of arms export permits to the UAE in 2020, Emirati-Italian military talks were held on Tuesday to discuss ways to develop military and defense relations.
- Oman to Supply China with 4 Million Tons of Liquefied Natural Gas (The New Arab). The Oman LNG Company signed an agreement with the Chinese company Unipec to supply about one million metric tons of LNG annually over a period of four years, starting from 2025. The company said that this deal is its first contract with a Chinese company, and that it “contributes to strengthening the strategic partnership of Oman LNG with various companies operating in the field of energy.”
- UAE Central Bank Grants License to Russian MTS Bank (The New Arab). MTS bank is a financial technology unit of Mobile Telesystems, Russia’s largest mobile operator. The bank obtaining a license to open a branch means granting it the right to conduct banking operations, such as issuing loans, accepting deposits, maintaining accounts, managing assets, and opening correspondent accounts in dirhams at the Central Bank of the UAE…The harsh Western sanctions imposed on Russia have not yet targeted the telecoms infrastructure directly, which means that MTS does not face the same restrictions as banks and energy companies.
10 February 2023
- Israel Defense Forces Chief Spotted on Unannounced Visit to Bahrain (Times Of Israel). IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi paid a secret visit to Bahrain this week to attend a regional security conference held under the auspices of the US Central Command, with the head of the US Army’s Central Command Erik Kurilla also in attendance.
15 February 2023
- Exclusive: After Visit of Top U.S. Official, UAE Restricts Sending Dirhams to Iran (Iran International). According to exclusive information received by Iran International, after the visit of the US Deputy Treasury Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence two weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates has increased the strictness of remittances of dirhams to Iran, as well as the banking regulations for newly established companies in the UAE.
16 February 2023
- UAE Intervenes in Sudan and Establishes a Senior Support Group (Al Sharq al-Awsat). During a visit from Sudan’s military leader Fattah Al-Burhan to the President of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, both leaders announced forming a high-level joint working group to develop a vision for the conduct of bilateral relations.
- France Seeks Qatar’s Assistance in Evacuations from Kabul (Al Jazeera). So far, France has evacuated 2,384 people from Afghanistan, including 142 French and 17 Europeans, and more than 2,600 Afghans have been at risk since August 17, according to Macron.
- US Meeting In Oman Coincides With Report Of Talks To Free Americans In Iran (Iran International). US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley held talks with Omani officials about Iran, as reports emerged of indirect talks to free US prisoners held in Tehran…NBC had reported earlier that $7 billion of Iran’s funds held in South Korea will be released as part of a prisoner deal. Iran International’s correspondent asked State Department Spokesman Ned Price if the US is willing to give the Iranian people assurances that any released funds are not going to end up in IRGC’s hands. Price responded that he is not in a position to confirm or deny any reports.
27 February 2023
- Saudi Foreign Minister Visits Ukraine and Announces $410 Million in Support (Al Khaleej Online). On Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan visited the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, in what is the first visit by a Saudi official since the start of the war nearly a year ago. He announced his country would provide two aid packages worth $410 million to Ukraine. The director of the Ukrainian President’s Office stated that his country is counting on Saudi Arabia’s support for the peace process, and that Saudi Arabia had a mediating role in freeing 10 prisoners of war.
- Israeli El Al Planes Begin Using Route over Saudi Arabia and Oman (Al Nahar). The Israeli airline El Al announced that its planes started on Sunday to use a new, time-saving route that passes through Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman, a decision taken after Muscat last week joined Riyadh in opening its airspace to Israel civil aviation.
- Russia Proposes Partnership with Gulf States to Jointly Produce the SU-75 Fighter (Defense Arabia). Russian media reported that Russia will propose a partnership with the Gulf states to produce the latest generation of its Su-75 fighter jets, also known as Checkmate. The general manager of Rosoboronexport, a company that manages exports of Russian weapons and military equipment, said, “The company is studying joint production options with countries in the Middle East for modern, high-tech products, including the fifth-generation fighter.”
28 February 2023
- Saudi Arabia Benefits from Sanctions Against Russia by Increasing Oil Exports to Europe (The New Arab). Saudi Arabia benefited from the sanctions on Russian oil and fuel and increased its oil exports to the European Union by 126% in 2022…However, Saudi Arabia was not the only country benefiting from the sanctions against Russia, as American companies, African countries and Latin American countries also benefited, as US exports to Europe increased by 22.3% last year.
- EU Sanctions Dubai-based Russian Shipping Company (Middle East Eye). The European Union has slapped sanctions on a Dubai-based subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned shipping giant, as the West steps up efforts to stem Moscow’s use of the Middle East as an economic lifeline. Sanctions were placed on Sun Ship Management, which the EU said is part of the Russian government-controlled shipping company, Sovcomflot.