Gulf Warns EU: Our Foreign Trade is Shifting to Asia

Riyadh – A prominent Gulf official warned the European Union (EU) that Europe’s share of Gulf continues’ foreign trade is declining, decreasing from 24 percent in 1992 to 11 percent last year — the Gulf foreign trade is shifting to Asia.

For 20 years, Gulf countries have been carrying out talks with the EU to sign a free-trade agreement between the two parties. But Europeans insist to include political topics in the negotiations’ program, which is rejected by the Gulf.

The GCC lately suspended trade negotiations with economic countries and blocs for the sake of re-evaluating the outcomes of these talks.

GCC’s Director of the Economic Administration at the General Secretariat Abdul Aziz al-Oaishek affirmed that the EU is still the first commercial partner for GCC with trade exchange worth more than USD183 billion.

Oaishek warned, however, that the share of EU from the Gulf foreign trade continues to decline.

“It declined from 24 percent in 1992 to 11 percent last year,” he said, adding that the majority of GCC states’ trade moved toward Asia.

Oaishek made his statement following the conclusion of the conference on “trade and economic relations between the EU and the GCC countries” in Brussels on Wednesday.

The conference was organized by European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade to discuss necessary mechanisms to increase trade and investment cooperation between the EU and GCC.

Oaishek expressed the GCC keenness to reinforce economic and commercial ties with the EU and he showcased the national transformation plans in the GCC – these plans seek to speed economic diversification and increase citizens’ and private sector contribution to the economy.

Chairperson of EPDAP Michele Alliot-Marie pointed out the need to achieve genuine partnerships between the European and Gulf in industrial development.

Saudi Arabia to Launch Coordination Council with Iraq

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Jeddah

Riyadh- Saudi Arabia and Iraq will be cosigning the establishment of a joint Saudi-Iraqi Coordinating Council in Riyadh next week, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The body is said to cover various political, economic, security and cultural fields.

Abdul Aziz al-Shammari, charge d’affaires of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Baghdad, said that an Iraqi delegation is expected to arrive in Riyadh next week under the chairmanship of Dr. Sulaiman al-Jumaili, head of the Coordination Council from the Iraqi side. Six other Iraqi ministers will also be part of the delegation.

“The Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council will cover all vital and important areas between the two countries, political, economic, commercial, security, cultural and others,” Shammari told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Shammari stressed that this step is vital in rebooting good ties between Riyadh and Baghdad, which will then bring relations to broader horizons, in various fields, and through the establishment of joint sub-committees to discuss the promotion of cooperation between the two countries.

London Calls on UN to Avoid Misleading Information on Yemen

Alistair Burt MP, Britain's Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Riyadh- Britain’s Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt called on Monday United Nations’ agencies operating in Yemen to gather all accessible information in order to avoid being misled.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper during his visit to Riyadh, Burt encouraged assisting those UN agencies that have a difficult mission in Yemen.

Asked about the latest UN Secretary General’s annual Children and armed conflict report (CAAC) that drove dispute for including inaccurate information, Burt said: “I believe this is an issue related to the UN. And, it is important that the UN receives all available resources as some issues might be purely disputed and therefore, certain people could offer misleading information.”

He added that the UK cooperates with the UN. “They are trying to realize a hard mission, but in my opinion, what is more important is to remove the motives of strife in order to avoid similar reports in the future,” he explained.

The British minister said that his visit to Saudi Arabia comes in the framework of coordination concerning the Yemeni file, adding that the UK would place all its efforts in coordination with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States to politically end the Yemeni crisis.

“I met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in New York and we spoke on the phone. I am pleased to meet him again. We currently have a specific issue to discuss, which is Yemen,” Burt said, adding that the two countries would work together to end the strife and support UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and his mission.

Burt described the Saudi-British relationship as “very important,” particularly in the fields of security and commerce.

“My visit also aims to enhance those relations, and I was offered the chance to meet with the British consular officers working in the Kingdom to tackle opportunities in the tourism sectors and to share our experiences in the fields of museums and heritage,” he said.

Houthi Minister Accuses Saleh of Killing Politicians

A poster bearing the portrait of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and announcing the 35 year anniversary of the establishment of his General People's Congress party is seen on a Sanaa street on August 19, 2017.

Riyadh- A “Houthi” minister in the Sanaa coup government accused on Sunday former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of killing political leaders during his tenure.

Hassan Zaid, who holds the post of minister of Youth and Sports within the illegitimate Houthi government in Sanaa, wrote on his Facebook account on Sunday that “impertinence and cruelty that can reach the level of atrocity is embodied in the refusal of head of the General People’s Congress party to uncover the fate of the forced hidden Nasserite leaders.”

Zaid threatened the former president of opening the file of “illicit gains.”

The Houthi minister said he would not stop digging in the files of corruption and assassinations, the smuggling of weapons, in addition to giving up state lands.

In August, a war of words between the two previous allies, Houthi and Saleh’s supporters, exploded into a military confrontation when militants believed to be linked to Saleh’s Republican Guards fired at a Houthi military position in the Joulat al-Misbaha where the two groups exchanged fires in the presence of a high-security deployment.
Reports said the clashes erupted after Houthi fighters tried to set up a security checkpoint near the home of Saleh in Sana’a.

Last August, Zaid also confessed that, around two years ago, he had asked the head of the so-called Supreme Political Council, Saleh al-Samad, to assassinate President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi and place him under house arrest in the Yemeni capital.

He also revealed that Saleh was granting military ranks to Qaeda militants and accused the former president of using them to assassinate academics, military officials and security leaders.

“The former regime of Saleh was granting military grades and was hiring hundreds of guards to protect armed bandits and Qaeda members who were later tasked to kill patriots from the military, security and academic leadership,” he said.

Saudi Arabia Supports Yemeni Parties Returning to Peace Negotiations

In the Harat Al-Masna’a slum in Sana’a, Yemen, a man walks with his three-year-old daughter which sits next to a former textile factory and hosts 231 families of former factory workers.

Riyadh- Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber reaffirmed that the Kingdom supports all political efforts exerted by the United Nations to bring Yemeni parties back to negotiations and reach a political solution.

However, the ambassador pointed out to the existence of foreign interferences by the Iranian regime that threaten security and stability in the region and Yemen.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced on Wednesday his intention to revive negotiations between the parties to the Yemeni conflict through the introduction of a comprehensive initiative for the solution, including humanitarian initiatives to rebuild confidence and the return of the parties to the negotiating table.

“The Iranian regime is threatening security and stability in the region,” the Saudi ambassador to Yemen said at a workshop in Brussels organized by the Gulf Research Center, citing a Houthi-Iranian agreement signed by militias in February 2015 to conduct 28 weekly Sanaa-Tehran flights to import ballistic missiles, guided boats and drones, and the specific weapons that the Houthis were supplied with.

“The Saudi position is clear; the solution in Yemen is political and depends on three basic reference points: the Gulf initiative, the outcomes of the Yemeni national dialogue, and the UN Security Council resolution (2216),” he said in a speech to workshop attendees.

The workshop was attended by representatives of the Yemeni government, the European Union, and civil society organizations.

On the other hand, Jaber stressed the need for Houthis to hand over the weapons and participate in the political process as a political party and not as a militia.

“Iranian interference in Yemen must stop and ensure the security and stability of Yemen and the region,” he said.
For his part, Mohamed Taha Mustafa, the Yemeni ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, stressed the keenness of the legitimate government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi on peace based on the principles of partnership in power and fair distribution of wealth within the framework of a federal Yemen that can serve Yemenis.

Yemeni Human Rights Center: UN Report Overlooks 3,400 Children in Taiz Affected by War

Children ride on the back of a pick-up truck as they flee Sana'a on April 6, 2015

Riyadh- Angry reactions bubbled up as the United Nations published a report on children rights violations in Yemen citing inaccurate information provided by sources involved with coup militias in the war-torn country.

A report released yesterday by the Information and Training Center for Human Rights in Yemen’s Taiz province strongly condemned the UN report, slamming it as inaccurate.

“Taiz alone accounts for a much larger size of children rights abuses than that mentioned in the UN report– over 700 children were killed in Taiz only since the beginning of the war and 2,700 others were wounded by militia fire.”

The team criticized most UN reports because of its “deliberate and shameful silence on systematic crimes against civilians in Taiz.”

The Yemeni human rights group considered that the recent UN report “shows the extent of the significant gaps in the flow of information with UN Offices.”

“The UN report on child abuse in Yemen is unfair and reflects the extent to which the United Nations is being misled by its Sana’a-based sources,” said Arafat Abdel Latif, executive director of the Human Rights Information and Training Center.

“The truth on the ground confirms that the violations of Houthi militias and Saleh’s children’s forces are a systematic process aimed at slaying the future of Yemen,” he said.

Some 70 percent of the personnel of the rebel forces in Yemen are children, Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Mekhlafi said.

“Rebels are using children in this war, 70 percent of the personnel are children, children between the ages of nine and 17 … The recruitment of children must be stopped,” Mekhlafi said at a session on Yemen at the United Nations.

According to Mekhlafi, Yemen hopes that international bodies “will pay more attention” to programs of social security in the conflict-torn country.

“We need more money for these programs,” the minister added.

Yemen has been engulfed in a violent conflict between the internationally-recognized government headed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Tehran-aligned Houthi militias, backed by armed loyalists supporting former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saudi Aid to Yemen Exceeded $8 Billion in Two Years


Riyadh — Saudi Arabia announced that the amount of aid it has provided to Yemen over the last two years exceeded $8 billion, including humanitarian, relief, development and governmental assistance, as well as support to the Central Bank of Yemen.

The Kingdom, through the King Salman Relief Center (KSRELIEF), said it was targeting the rehabilitation of 2,000 Yemeni children per year, who were recruited by Houthi militias and forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The first batch of children had already graduated last week.

KSRELIEF Official Spokesman Dr. Samer al-Jetaily presented an overview of the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia to Yemen over the past two years, pointing out that there were 9.8 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, while the number of internally displaced persons reached 3.11 million according to the UN 2017 report.

He added: “The total request for funding from the United Nations for humanitarian work in Yemen was $2.3 billion, of which Saudi Arabia covered $967 million, or 42 percent. It has provided assistance to more than 3.4 million people out of a total number of 11.9 million, while 2.5 million people were receiving monthly assistance from the World Food Program.”

Al-Jetaily was speaking during a news conference at the organization’s headquarters, alongside Abdullah Al-Rwaily, the organization’s director of community support services.

According to the spokesman, there are 128 humanitarian organizations operating in Yemen, including 86 local non-governmental organizations, 34 international non-governmental organizations and 8 United Nations organizations.

“The Kingdom’s total assistance to Yemen from April 2015 to August 2017 amounted to $8.27 billion, of which $911 million was dedicated to humanitarian and relief assistance through the King Salman Center, $1.1 billion was provided to Yemeni visitors in the Kingdom, $2.9 billion in development assistance, $2.7 billion in government aid, and $1 billion to the Central Bank of Yemen,” the official added.

He also noted that Saudi Arabia has provided health services to more than 478,000 patients and educational services to more than 289,000 students in Yemen since May 2015.

“We provided 68 projects worth more than $118 million dedicated to empowering women, as well as 80 projects for children at a cost exceeding $227 million, covering education, protection, food security, shelter, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene,” Jetaily said.

He also stressed that KSRELIEF has organized rehabilitation for approximately 20,000 child soldiers in Yemen.

GCC-British Seminar on Strategic Partnership

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani during the seminar on the strategic partnership between GCC and UK

Riyadh– Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani confirmed that cooperation between Gulf countries and UK is not new, especially in security and defense.

Zayani pointed out that there are several plans that are being constantly updated to counter terrorism and fight Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.

The Sec-Gen stated that the cooperation is ongoing, which was reiterated during the summit held in Bahrain.

Zayani was speaking during the inauguration of a seminar on the strategic partnership between the GCC and the United Kingdom in the framework of efforts exerted by the Gulf and British sides to promote the outcomes of the GCC-British Summit which was held in Bahrain in December 2016.

The seminar was held at the Prince Saud al-Faisal Center for Conferences.

Zayani stressed that this forum aims at reviewing the achievements of GCC-British relations and cooperation. He added that during last year’s summit, Gulf countries and the UK agreed on forming a joint group to counter terrorism, secure borders, and enhance societies’ abilities to recover and stabilize.

They also agreed to increase joint military drills and training including maritime drills, border security, and establish stronger economic and trade relations.

The Sec-Gen reviewed the most important outcomes of the first summit between the GCC and the UK.

British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis confirmed that UK-Gulf friendship goes back ages, adding that trade between London and Gulf countries reached 30 million pounds over the past year.

The ambassador said that his country is adamant on establishing new partnerships while maintaining their old relations, stating that these partnerships will help the UK face all the challenges, establish security and stability.

Collis said that British Prime Minister Theresa May was clear when she said: “Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity. ”

When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat about the free trade negotiations with Gulf countries, Collis reported that this issue hadn’t been established officially. He explained that foreign trade is part of the European Commission, and it is impossible to discuss this matter before Brexit negotiations are over.

The ambassador confirmed that the relations with Gulf countries are not competitive but rather complementary. He added that there is a possibility to discuss and negotiate the general idea of free trade and he doesn’t expect to face any difficulties especially that the Gulf is the most important market following Europe and North America.

Yemeni Official: ‘GCC States Consider Allocating 1,000 Treatment Grants to Yemenis’

Riyadh- King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) and the Saudi Ministry of Health, in coordination with the Gulf Coordination Council to support Yemen, have been discussing the allocation of 1,000 treatment grants for Yemeni citizens abroad, said an official in the Yemeni Ministry of Public Health.

Medical Attache of Yemen Embassy in Riyadh Dr. Mohammed al-Saadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the three parties have been discussing implementing this project in countries such as India, where the country would be responsible to treat Yemeni residents.

“Kuwait has approved the treatment of 200 cases, Saudi Arabia is expected to take care of 400 cases and the rest of the countries are on the final stages of the adoption of these grants.”

In this context, Saadi said that Saudi Arabia allocates 100 annual treatment grants for Yemenis in Saudi hospitals in accordance with the signed protocol between the two countries’ health ministries.

“These grants were used during the period from January until July, 2017 due to the existing pressure as the Yemeni side specifies the cases according to the agreed upon criteria,” Saadi added, pointing out that the targeted cases are heart conditions, congenital malformations and chronic diseases that require major operations that are not made in Yemen.

The medical attache noted that Minister of Health Dr. Nasser Baoum is personally following the process of facilitating the entry of these cases and providing all means of support to them in order to ensure that they receive appropriate treatment without delay.

He added, “there is unlimited support from the Saudi health side, where additional cases of visiting residents and those who suffer accidents and acute injuries are being accepted.”

“Associations such as the Society for the Care of Kidney Failure Patients (Kelana) and Sanad Children’s Cancer Support Association are also contributing in the support of many cases for Yemeni patients. We thank the Saudi side for all this support,” Saadi said.

Dr. Saadi also revealed that about 70 percent of the grants benefited from were from Yemen while 30 percent were from Saudi Arabia, for those who did not have regular iqamas.

He explained that Saudi Arabia takes care of the whole treatment process, without specifying the costs of the cases and no matter how much the operations will cost, unlike the situation in other countries such as Egypt or Jordan, where a specific ceiling is set for any treatment case received.

Saudi University Dismisses Muslim Brotherhood-Linked Academics

Riyadh- One of the biggest universities in Saudi Arabia decided on Tuesday not to renew the contract of a number of Saudi and foreign academics after finding evidence that they were influenced by the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood ideology and other similar organizations.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Riyadh-based Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University said that following a detailed and permanent follow-up conducted by its Rector Dr. Suliman Aba Al-Khail, the university’s administrative council advised not to renew the contract of a number of Saudi and foreign academics who are affiliated to the ideology of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.

Dr. Abdullah al-Assaf, a professor of political social sciences at the university of Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision was “a good step,” saying the education sector was greatly violated by the Brotherhood ideology, and therefore should be delicately monitored, particularly in the presence of some hidden and unknown cells.

Assaf also spoke about the importance of purifying all universities in addition to the public education sector from such ideologies.

“Those academics nourish the minds of the youth and therefore, have a great influence on them… They are also capable of recruiting some students to adopt malicious ideologies that are currently spread in several Arab communities, leading to strife and division.”

The professor admitted that any attempt to vet academic institutions in Saudi Arabia would not be an easy task and would require an immense effort.

“There is no doubt that the mission will be very difficult and therefore society and academic leaders should be prepared for such a task. I think that the news is going to be shocking for all the education bodies, not only at our university, but in all universities.”

Assaf said that some sides would attempt to blame the university’s rector for the dismissals. 

But “the university had evidence backing its decision,” he said.