Region

Gulf and Red Sea Regions

Stories under this heading cover the Gulf and the Red Sea regions, including the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and the countries bordering the Red Sea.

Dubai scraps 30% alcohol tax and fees for personal alcohol licences

The UAE emirate of Dubai has announced that it has scrapped the 30% tax on alcohol, and will no longer charge for personal alcohol licences.

Known as the Gulf's "party capital", where expatriates outnumber nationals by nine to one, Dubai has historically been more attractive to tourists and wealthy foreign workers than its neighbours, partially because of its tolerance of a more liberal lifestyle.

Despite this, the high alcohol tax had led to residents often driving to Umm al-Quwain and other emirates to buy alcohol in bulk.

patrickn97 Mon, 01/02/2023 - 10:33 The free market in foreign policy on display as Xi meets the Arabs
It appears that the principles of the free market now dominate the international system, not only in areas of trade, but also in defence, security and foreign policy, writes Dennis Sammut in today's Monday Commentary on commonspace.eu. Bigger countries are wooing smaller countries, unashamedly displaying their goods, and dismissing those of others. China’s president Xi was in Saudi Arabia last week, to seal China’s new partnership with the Arabs. This week, it will Joe Biden’s turn to host African leaders at the White House. "For the moment small countries are making the most out of this new free market atmosphere in the international system. But they must also keep in mind that, as in the market, demand sometimes slumps abruptly. It is at this point countries will not need just customers, but also friends."
dennis2020 Mon, 12/12/2022 - 05:29

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Lavrov on diplomatic offensive in the Gulf, as poll results suggest Arab street is indifferent to Ukraine situation

Lavrov on diplomatic offensive in the Gulf, as poll results suggest Arab street is indifferent to Ukraine situation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Bahrain and Saudi Arabia this week as part of efforts to consolidate relations with the region, despite the international outcry over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The visit comes amid finding in a poll by YOUGOV that show that the Arab street is largely indifferent to the events in Ukraine. Faisal Abbas, the Editor in Chief of Arab News which commissioned the poll, in an article on 30 May, said that "most strikingly, perhaps, the findings lay bare the extent of the distrust of the West across all 14 of the countries covered in the survey. Almost a quarter of the 7,835 people surveyed (24 percent) pointed the finger of blame for the conflict squarely at NATO, while more than one in ten (13 percent) said US President Joe Biden was responsible. Only 16 percent blamed Russia." Abbas says that "this can be attributed in part to Russia’s massive investment in its own news channels in Arabic, and to a massive online outreach effort. But underpinning the widespread Arab skepticism on this issue is not so much the success of Russian propaganda, but rather the steady ebbing away of trust in the West over the past two decades."
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Yemeni civil society pushes for opening of roads to the city of Taiz despite Houthi reluctance

Yemeni civil society pushes for opening of roads to the city of Taiz despite Houthi reluctance

Yemeni civil society groups are campaigning actively for the opening of roads connecting the Yemeni city of Taiz with other major urban centres despite reluctance by the Houthi rebel group. UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg, on Saturday  (28 May) concluded an initial round of discussions in Amman, Jordan, attended by representatives of government and rebels on options to open key roads in Taiz and other governorates, as per the UN-mediated truce agreement signed in April. A proposal for the phased re-opening of roads, including an implementation mechanism and guarantees for the safety of civilian travelers was drawn up based on the three-day discussions and options presented by both sides. Civil society actors and local mediators, many of whom are from Taiz, also took part in the discussions by offering their insights and expertise as well as practical options for road openings. Dozens of human rights groups, activists, government officials and Taiz residents have launched a new campaign on social media, using hashtag #Siege_of_Taiz_crime, calling for the opening of roads to the city. Yemenis widely circulated images of cars loaded with goods and fuel overturning on the steep and unpaved slopes drivers were forced to turn to after the Houthis blocked the city’s main entrances.
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The Emirates in mourning following the death of Sheikh Khalifa

The Emirates in mourning following the death of Sheikh Khalifa

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have started a forty days mourning period after the death was announced yesterday of the country's second president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan. Khalifa succeeded his father as Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE in 2004. However since 2014, following a stroke, he has played only a symbolic role in public life, with most day to day government decisions taken by his heir and brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Sheikh Khalifa was laid to rest on Saturday (14 May) in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.  The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates, each of which still have control over many internal issues. However all defence, foreign policy and security issues are decided at the federal level. The accession of Sheikh Mohammed as president is not automatic, since the rulers of the seven emirates will have to meet in the next thirty days to formally elect the new president. But tradition and real politik has it that the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, by far the richest and the strongest of the seven emirates, gets the position of President.
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Opinion: China expands its military co-operation with Iran as it emerges as the main counterweight to US influence on the Eurasian landmass

Opinion: China expands its military co-operation with Iran as it emerges as the main counterweight to US influence on the Eurasian landmass

The visit last week of China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to Tehran marked a significant moment in the development of Chinese-Iranian military co-operation. Iran is becoming an increasingly important factor in Russia and China's efforts to create a partnership on the Eurasian landmass which can balance the US influence, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu
Millions of Muslims around the world celebrate Eid
Millions of Muslims around the world are celebrating the Eid - the feast that follows the fasting month of Ramadan. Thousands of Muslims gathered in Makkah and Madinah to perform the Eid Al-Fitr prayers in the early hours of Monday morning, the Saudi Press Agency reported. In Makkah’s Grand Mosque, Imam Sheikh Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humaid led the prayer. The editorial team of commonspace.eu wishes Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim readers across the world.
dennis2020 Mon, 05/02/2022 - 13:08
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Iran and Saudi Arabia conclude another constructive round of talks in Baghdad

Iran and Saudi Arabia conclude another constructive round of talks in Baghdad

Iran and Saudi Arabia have held a fifth round of direct talks in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, aimed at restoring relations between the Middle East's two regional powers, according to sources close to Iran’s security forces. The meeting date was not publicised beforehand, and Iraqi and Saudi sources have made no reference to it.   Senior representatives of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Khalid bin Ali Al Humaidan, attended the talks.  The source mentioned that the main challenges to re-establishing ties between the two countries were discussed in a “positive” atmosphere that “painted a brighter outlook” for the future of bilateral relations. Iran and Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic ties in 2016, and recent efforts led by Iraq aim to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries as a first step. Both countries, however, downplayed the expectations of a major breakthrough anytime soon. A major achievement so far has been the reopening of Iran's office at the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Somalia swears in new parliament after delayed elections

On Thursday (15 April), 208 newly elected legislators arrived in Somalia’s capital to be sworn in as members of the 11th Federal Parliament. The venue of the ceremony at the Mogadishu International Airport was heavily secured as Al-Shabaab militants fired mortars in the ceremony’s direction early on Thursday.

dennis2020 Fri, 04/15/2022 - 09:56