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.

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In Kuwait, Emir dissolves parliament and suspends part of the Constitution

In Kuwait, Emir dissolves parliament and suspends part of the Constitution

Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Sabah has issued a decree dissolving parliament and suspending some of the articles of the constitution for “a period not exceeding four years”, after weeks of political tension following recent elections. Speaking on television on Friday night (10 May), the Kuwaiti leader said: “We ordered the dissolution of the National Assembly and the suspension of some articles of the constitution for a period not exceeding four years,” the Emir said in a televised speech on Friday evening. “The recent turmoil in the Kuwaiti political scene has reached a stage where we cannot remain silent, so we must take all necessary measures to achieve the best interest of country and its people.” During the period of suspension of the articles of the constitution, all aspects of the democratic process will be studied, the Emir said. The powers of the National Assembly will be assumed by the Emir and the country's cabinet, state TV reported. “Kuwait has been through some hard times lately … which leaves no room for hesitation or delay in making the difficult decision to save the country and secure its highest interests,” the Emir added. The Gulf country held its fourth elections in as many years last month, with 39 of the 46 members from the previous parliament retaining their seats.

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Commentary: Gaza casts a shadow on the entire Middle East, and on its relations with the world

Commentary: Gaza casts a shadow on the entire Middle East, and on its relations with the world

The ongoing conflict, and accompanying humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has cast a shadow over the entire Middle East. It is clear that no Arab country can now avoid being embroiled in one way or another. Pictures of the suffering that the Palestinian people in Gaza have to endure on a daily basis fill the screens of all news programmes, and on social media the situation is hotly debated. Arabs are overwhelmingly incensed that the world allows the suffering of the Palestinian people to continue. For the young generation, especially in the Gulf, this is the first exposure to a crisis of this kind. No doubt, the present atmosphere adds to the radicalisation of some among this generation. Those countries that only very recently took the bold step of establishing relations with Israel now face criticism which they cannot ignore. One of these countries, Bahrain, on Thursday (2 November) recalled its Ambassador to Israel and suspended economic ties. Earlier, Saudi Arabia stepped back from the process of normalising relations with Israel, and has become a very vocal critic of Israeli policy.
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EU and GCC countries hold first joint ministerial meeting in eight years amidst deepening crisis in the Middle East

EU and GCC countries hold first joint ministerial meeting in eight years amidst deepening crisis in the Middle East

It has been planned for many months, and it took place for the first time after a gap of eight years, but the meeting of the foreign ministers of the six GCC countries and the 27 EU member states when it eventually took place yesterday in Muscat, capital of Oman, was inevitably overshadowed by the deepening crisis in the Middle  East triggered by Saturday's attack by Hamas on Southern Israel. Addressing the issue, whilst speaking to the media at the end of the meeting, EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated that in the meeting, the two sides agreed that "the priority is to cease violence and to prevent further regional escalation. It is of utmost importance to ensure the release of hostages, as well as the protection of civilians at all times and by all parties."  commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment that it is good that after years of neglect, the EU is finally giving relations with the Gulf Co-operation Council countries the importance that they deserve. The final declaration from the Muscat meeting is ambitious and wide ranging. It needs to be seen how the EU proposes to take it forward, and what is the mechanism it will put in place to ensure that it does not remain merely a piece of paper. The final declaration announces the holding of an EU-GCC summit of Heads of State and Government but gives no details. Whilst this summit will need to be well prepared, the aim should be to have it as soon as possible. But in the meantime the crisis in Middle East will remain the topic of the day for a while, and it is good that, even if by co-incidence of timing, the EU and the GCC countries could co-ordinate their positions in such a sensitive time.
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Iranian political point scoring mars process of reconciliation with Saudi Arabia

Iranian political point scoring mars process of reconciliation with Saudi Arabia

Football, it is often said, can unite nations in love with the game. But in Iran, it appears they see things differently. Saudi Arabia and Iran were at loggerheads for years, but in March, with much fanfare, the Chinese announced they had brokered a deal between the two countries. Diplomatic relations were restored. And from last month, football matches could start being played on their home grounds, instead of in third party venues. But for Iran, political scoring is all important. A furious row erupted on Monday after an Iranian football club tried to use a match against Saudi opponents for political propaganda. The AFC Champions League match at the Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium in Isfahan between Sepahan and Jeddah team Al-Ittihad was called off when the Iranian club refused to remove political banners and busts of the late Revolutionary Guard warlord Qassem Soleimani from the edge of the pitch. Soleimani ran the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was a blunt critic of the Saudi government and the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family. He was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020. The Iranians refused to remove the bust. After requesting a delay of half an hour to assess the situation, the Saudi team and staff left the stadium to head to the airport and back to Saudi Arabia.
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Women artists make impact on Saudi Arabia's art scene

Women artists make impact on Saudi Arabia's art scene

The role of women in various aspects of Saudi society has been changing dramatically in recent years. One area where great strides has been made is the arts and culture scene, including in various Saudi regions. The women’s art movement in Baha is elevating the Saudi art scene by showcasing regional and national heritage. Visual artist Samia Al-Othman told the Saudi Press Agency that the women’s art movement in Baha has witnessed significant development in recent years. Al-Othman has taken part in local and international exhibitions and forums, and undergone training courses in different art schools, utilizing a range of techniques since 2012. Nada Al-Jabiri said that she discovered her talent at an early age, adding that aspirations for the future can be seen in her drawings, which aligns with empowering women and using their artistic ideas. Women artists in Baha have been influenced by local and global experiences, which is reflected in many of their works. (SPA) She added that visual art is sending a great message by highlighting national identity and introducing Saudi cultural, historic, social and artistic heritage to the world.
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Saudi Arabia to host summit on peace in Ukraine on Saturday

Saudi Arabia to host summit on peace in Ukraine on Saturday

The Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah is to host a global summit on reaching peace in Ukraine on Saturday (5 August). The summit will be attended by some 40 countries including many countries of the "Global South", as well as China. Russia was not invited to the talks, however, and Moscow has said that they will "monitor" the summit. The discussion and future implementation of Ukraine's Peace Formula, set out by President Volodymyr Zelensky during an address to the G20 in November, will be the subject of the summit in Jeddah.
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2nd EU-Saudi Arabia high-level political dialogue held in Brussels

2nd EU-Saudi Arabia high-level political dialogue held in Brussels

The 2nd High-level Political Dialogue between the European Union and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was held on 31 July in Brussels, the European Union's External Action Service has announced in a press release. It was co-chaired by Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Mr. Enrique Mora and Ambassador H.E. Dr. Rayed Krimly, Head of Policy Planning at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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Erdogan visits Gulf countries to seal strategic partnerships

Erdogan visits Gulf countries to seal strategic partnerships

Turkish prime minister, Recip Tayip Erdogan, on Monday embarked on a tour of the Gulf region which will see him visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The trip, coming shortly after Erdogan's re-election as President, is seen as part of an effort to consolidate a strategic partnership with the Gulf countries, based on new realities that have emerged in recent years. The rift between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and UAE has now been fully healed, and this visit is no longer about fixing the past, but is definitely about charting the future. Economic co-operation, and co-operation in the defence sector are key elements of Erdogan's agenda.
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Di Maio arrives in the Gulf on first trip as special envoy of the EU for the GCC

Di Maio arrives in the Gulf on first trip as special envoy of the EU for the GCC

European Union diplomacy is often criticised for not giving enough attention to the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). In a signal that things are about to change, in June it appointed its first Special Representative for the region. The EU has a number of these Special Representatives, know as EUSRs, usually dealing with regions or topics that cannot be addressed through the bilateral delegations that the EU has in most countries of the world. But the announcement that the EU was going to appoint former Italian Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, as its first EUSR for the Gulf countries came as a bit of a surprise. Too senior, some said; too much political baggage from his time in Italian politics, said others. But after a brief moment of hesitation the 27 member states finally agreed Di Maio's candidature. This week he finally arrived in the Gulf on his first visit in this role, ahead of an important EU-GCC foreign ministers meeting expected to take place in Oman in October. “I think that the world is changing and there are new partnerships to build,” Di Maio said during an interview on Thursday with the Saudi newspaper Arab News, that touched on topics ranging from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the economic empowerment of women and young people in the Kingdom.
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Saudi Arabia to strengthen partnerships with Hong Kong, China

Saudi Arabia to strengthen partnerships with Hong Kong, China

Saudi Arabia is keen to strengthen its partnernships with Hong Kong and mainland China, the Saudi communications and IT minister Abdullah Al-Swaha said on Sunday (2 July). Speaking at the "One Gateway Shared Vision — Hong Kong x Saudi Arabia" event in Hong Kong, Abdullah Al-Swaha said closer collaboration would help boost the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil and diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as healthcare, tourism, education, infrastructure and recreation. "Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia are going through very promising transformations, where both economies are financial hubs in their own regions. We have an opportunity to build an innovation bridge, to leapfrog into the future with an innovation-based economy," he said. A "pro-partnership and pro-openness" Saudi Arabia was willing to do business with "any partner that can comply with our security and regulatory requirements," he said. Saudi authorities would look to work closely with Hong Kong across a range of sectors, including health sciences and biotechnology, environmental, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and smart cities, he said. Al-Swaha's visit to Hong Kong the Arab-China Business Conference held in Riyadh last month, at which Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Kingdom could serve as China’s gateway to the Arab world.