GCC States Adopt Anti-Corruption Index


Riyadh – Heads of anti-corruption bodies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states adopted on Monday an anti-corruption index that meets global standards of fighting corruption.

Bahrain’s deputy Interior Minister Major General Adel al-Fadel highlighted to Asharq Al-Awsat the importance of the new law because it follows international standards and indexes that deal with corruption.

Al-Fadel headed the 4th GCC meeting for integrity protection and anti-corruption officials at the council’s General Secretariat in Riyadh.

The meeting discussed various topics related to the protection of integrity and anti-corruption in the region, including the guideline for the protection of public funds and means to enhance competency and improvement of the performance of concerned authorities.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Bahraini official said that the meeting discussed 11 points, which were mainly focused on the means to promote joint GCC work in the field of protecting public funds and fighting corruption.

He added that the law addresses several corruption indexes, including employees’ general performance, capacity building, misuse of authority, as well as other factors.

Al-Fadel said that the meeting touched on various issues to reinforce Gulf cooperation and integration through mechanisms that could promote integrity and anti-corruption.

Al-Fadel also noted that GCC countries have special anti-corruption bodies that report to different institutions within the state.

He underlined the importance of cooperation between GCC states, in particular with regards to the exchange of expertise and experiences, to prepare for the second session of the review of the implementation of the United Nation Anti-corruption Agreement.

Recommendations made by Gulf workshops on benchmarking GCC practices against global standards and criteria in areas of transparency and integrity were also among issues reviewed during the Riyadh meeting.

GCC: Ongoing Cooperation with Washington ahead of Trump’s Visit


Riyadh – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said that cooperation and collaboration was maintained with the US administration within the framework of strategic partnership forged between Gulf leaders and former US President Barack Obama.

In comments to reporters, Al-Zayani said the two sides were actively working to promote cooperation and consolidate bilateral ties.

US President Donald Trump announced last week that he would head to Saudi Arabia on May 23, on his first foreign official visit, to hold a Saudi-US summit and another meeting with GCC leaders. He will also meet with a number of Muslim and Arab leaders.

Following a Saudi-US summit last year, Al-Zayani said that American and GCC leaders have agreed to promote military cooperation.

He noted in this regard that Riyadh and Washington were still implementing decisions taken during two previous summits, which have focused on military cooperation among other fields.

During last year’s summit, which was held in April upon the invitation of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, leaders reaffirmed the need to remain vigilant about addressing Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, including its ballistic missile program and support for terrorist groups in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other countries.

According to the GCC secretary general, the summit saw an agreement on the implementation of an initiative to train specially-designated Special Operations Forces (SOF) units from each GCC country in order to strengthen counterterrorism capabilities.

GCC countries also supported expanded cooperation on cyber security, endorsing cyber norms codified by Saudi Arabia, the United States and other G20 countries.

Al-Zayani noted that military cooperation would also include training military medical personnel and countering, through joint military operations, illegal Iranian naval activities and arms smuggling into Yemen.

Last March, Kuwait hosted the Eagle Resolve 2017 military exercises with the participation of Saudi armed forces, as well as those of other GCC countries and US military personnel, within the GCC-US strategic partnership.

WFP Admits Transferring Rotten Wheat Aid to Aden


Riyadh – The Yemen Society for Consumer Protection (YACP) has said that 32,000 tons of rotten wheat, which was grown in the US, have been sent to Yemen. The YACP obtained a report and photographs of a World Food Program (WFP) ship, which was unloading rotten wheat in the port of Aden to be consumed by Yemeni citizens.

The report said the wheat grain shipment of the AMBERL ship that was going to be distributed in the provinces of Aden and Hodeidah.

According to the report, 20,000 tons of the wheat were going to be sent to Aden and 12,000 to Hodeidah.

The WFP explained in a statement that the rest of the shipment is currently undergoing an official laboratory test to confirm its quality before carrying out the grinding, packaging and distribution process.

For its part, the Yemeni government remained silent and did not comment on the issue when approached by Asharq Al-Awsat. Government spokesman Rageh Badi instead suggested contacting Minister of Local Administration and Chairman of the Supreme Relief Committee Fateh Abdul Raqeeb, who is concerned with this matter.

However, the Minister did not answer his telephone and immediately shut it off after receiving a message explaining the reason for the call.

Meanwhile, the WFP said that the shipment, which arrived in Aden Port in April, contains enough wheat to feed 2.5 million people for one month and is part of the UN emergency operation in the country that provides emergency food aid to millions of people.

WFP noted that part of the shipment, which was damaged by sea water, was isolated and is scheduled to be disposed of in Aden according to the usual program procedures in such cases.

Saudi Justice Ministry: We Have Nothing to Hide in Terror-Related Affairs


Riyadh – Saudi Minister of Justice Dr. Walid al-Samaani confirmed that his ministry has nothing to hide regarding terror issues or any other matter.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that justice in Saudi Arabia deals with criminal trials, including those related to terrorism, like any other in which all fair standards are applied according to Islamic law, regulations and principles.

A suspect is tried according to the Saudi Arabian justice system and he has the right to hire a lawyer, who can attend all the investigation procedures and check all documents and his client’s minutes. He noted that the Ministry pays to hire a lawyer for suspects who cannot afford one.

Samaani said that his ministry has formed work teams to communicate, according to diplomatic means, with international parties, provide them with all what is related to judicial achievements with full transparency and answer all the questions regarding the justice system in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi minister pointed out that the Justice Ministry has put a comprehensive plan to develop 70 major projects to raise the efficiency of the justice system, guarantee rights, provide judicial services, achieve work with good quality and proficiency and ensure implementation of the verdicts.

When told that the judicial authority in Saudi Arabia is subject to criticism by international human rights organizations, he stressed that his country does not accept the intervention of any party in its judicial affairs.

Regarding some western criticism on women’s rights, Samaani said that the Justice Ministry has opened doors for the recruitment of women in more than 300 posts in different fields, including guidance units, appointments and referrals administration and women’s conciliation cadres.

He also talked about 22 judicial rulings that have been executed in less than 72 hours from the date of their release. This marks a departure from the past when the implementation of the judicial rulings used to take several months, stressed Samaani.

GCC Ministerial Meeting Coordinates Warding off External Meddling

Riyadh- Interior, foreign and defense ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stressed on Thursday the importance of enhancing joint action to avoid external interference in their internal affairs and prevent “harm to their national unity, incitement of sectarian tensions and support for terrorist groups.”

In their 18th Consultative Meeting held in Riyadh, the GCC ministers asserted their keenness to boost relations and cooperation with regional countries to contribute to strengthening security and peace and expanding areas of economic ties.

Chairing the meeting, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior said: “The biggest challenge facing any state in the modern world is preserving its national unity against foreign and domestic threats.”

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said the meeting tackled a number of political, defense and security issues in the Gulf states, as well as regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and extremist groups.

The Gulf ministers expressed their appreciation for the directives of GCC leaders and their efforts to enhance the progress of the region.

The meeting confirmed the determination of the states to combat terrorism and expressed support for all actions that GCC countries take for combatting terror and terrorist groups, dry up their sources of funding, and fight their misguided ideas that contradict with the true teachings of Islam.

The ministers vowed to intensify efforts for more integrative achievements in order to preserve the sovereignty, independence, security and stability of the states, and in defense of their gains and common interests.

They also affirmed the continued participation of GCC countries in supporting the efforts of the US-led international coalition to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq and across the region.

Four Ministers Appointed, One Dismissed by Presidential Order in Yemen

Riyadh- Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi released a set of orders on Thursday which saw the new appointment of four ministers, a deputy minister and the dismissal of another, who was referred to investigation.

Judge Jamal Mohamed Omar was assigned to the ministry of justice, Dr. Moeen Abdelmalek Saeed was appointed as minister of public works and infrastructures.

Dr. Abtihaj Al-Kamal became minister of social affairs and labor, Mohammad Mohsen Askar the Minister of Human Rights and Dr. Samir Mohsen Sheibani the Deputy Minister of Human Rights, reported the Yemen-based news outlet SABA.

Controversial state Minister Hani Ali bin Bark was relieved of his post and forwarded to probing.

Hadi also ordered the appointing of his adviser Abdul Aziz al-Muflehi as governor of the interim capital of Aden, replacing Aydros al-Zubaidi, who in turn was appointed as a foreign ministry ambassador.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Muflehi said that his priority is to provide basic services to Aden residents, namely water, power and sanitation.

“We will reboot all economic and commercial life in Aden,” he said.

The new governor reviewed his action plan for alleviating the suffering and recovery of the interim capital from its tragic situation, especially with matters concerning public services.

When asked about the date he assumes the post in Aden, Muflehi explained that it was up to him to complete some procedural perquisites and arrangements, but said that “it will not be too long.”

Putshists, such as Houthis and armed militants backing ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have joined each other in their attempts to reign over Yemen.

Backed by Iran, Houthis overran Sana’a in 2014 and established a coup capital there forcing the internationally recognized government to move to Aden temporarily.

International Pledging Conference for Yemen Kicks off in Geneva


Riyadh – A high-profile international pledging conference for Yemen will kick off in Geneva on Tuesday, as part of the Humanitarian Response Plan 2017, in the presence of Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr.

Held under the auspices of Switzerland and Germany, the conference is organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and will be presided by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien.

The Yemeni prime minister will separately meet, on the sidelines of the conference, with Guterres, foreign affairs ministers of Switzerland and Germany, the director general of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and O’Brien, as well as the Japanese delegation to the conference and the ambassadors of 18 countries supporting the Gulf Initiative to resolve the crisis in Yemen.

Bin Daghr will also hold talks with ambassadors of Gulf countries, according to the Yemeni official news agency.

On the eve of the conference, the Yemeni premier met with the ambassadors of the GCC countries accredited to Switzerland.

During the meeting, bin Daghr praised the role of GCC countries and their support for the legitimate authority in Yemen.

The prime minister gave the ambassadors an overview about recent developments in Yemen and achievements made by the legitimate government.

Bin Daghr stressed that his country and the GCC states were facing a very critical stage, which “requires further cooperation”.

He denounced Iran’s interference in Yemen’s internal affairs by backing the Houthi-Saleh militias.

The prime minister pointed out that the legitimate government – backed by the Saudi-led Coalition – has scored major victories in fighting terrorism.

He noted that most of the humanitarian assistance that Yemen receives came from “brothers in the Gulf and in particular Saudi Arabia”, through King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRELIEF).

For their part, the GCC States’ ambassadors expressed readiness to deploy all possible efforts to serve the Yemeni case in this critical situation, reaffirming the GCC leaders’ commitment to support Yemen’s economy, development and relief.

Nasdaq CEO: World Anticipates Aramco Issuance


Riyadh – CEO of Nasdaq Adena Friedman said that Nasdaq has huge opportunities in the shares issuance of the Saudi oil giant Aramco, seeing as it includes the five biggest companies in the world and is a home to company leaders in various sectors.

Friedman told Asharq Al-Awsat that any company that seeks to become a global one and wants to determine its economy future should naturally refer to Nasdaq.

She added: “Aramco listing in Nasdaq will introduce us better to the Saudi market and how this economy grows.”

It will also help “build ties between Aramco and leaders of other listed categories in Nasdaq index and create a great community that would help Aramco’s expansion to new regions and help other companies enter the Saudi market.”

Despite the competition, the CEO affirmed that Nasdaq has high chances to win the Aramco shares because it is considered “the best in the market”.

Friedman added: “When we look at the companies drawing their sector’s future and determining the economy future, then I think that stock is what helps achieve these purposes. We also provide enormous amounts of services to our clients to facilitate their transformation into public companies.”

Friedman expected a huge impact by Aramco issuance of shares on international markets.

“The company is highly associated with the Saudi economy. I think the whole world is anticipating this event and this might be a new model for some emerging markets to privatize part of their economy,” she added.

The Nasdaq CEO revealed that she will hold a series of meetings with Saudi officials in the future and that she has already met with a major government consultant.

She revealed that she was “informed of the various aspects of requirements to achieve the wanted change.”

Prince Saud Al Faisal Conference Center Inaugurated in Riyadh

A file picture taken in the coastal city of Jeddah, on October 13, 2014, shows Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal looking on during a press conference.

Riyadh- Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council have inaugurated the Prince Saud Al Faisal Conference Center in the main secretary general headquarters, in the same hall where he always wandered and took official photos with his Arab, Gulf, and foreign counterparts. This inauguration has come in recognition of the late Prince Saud Al-Faisal and his outstanding contribution and achievements to the GCC since its establishment.

The event included the screening of a documentary on the biography of Al-Faisal, considered among the most eminent and intelligent diplomats in the world, who dedicated his life to defend his country and the Arabic Islamic nation. The show also displayed myriads of pictures featuring the participation of the late diplomat in local, regional, and international conferences.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa who attended the inauguration said: “We are not going to say farewell to the Late Prince – Our ministerial meeting is to take place in this center today and we will keep remembering the Late Prince each time we come here. His words are still echoing in here, in our hearts, everywhere, and enlightening our minds, may God bless the soul of the late Prince, the prince and icon of diplomacy”.

Shaikh Khalid paid tribute to Prince Saud for the role he had played in shaping the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, which reinforced its leading role in defending the Gulf, Arab and Islamic causes and raised the Kingdom’s name high in international gatherings. He also valued the role of Prince Saud in setting up the pillars of the GCC to achieve the interests of its member states and in proving itself as a regional entity that plays a substantial role in international peace and security.

For his part, GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani said that naming the conferences’ hall at the GCC Secretariat General’s Headquarters after Prince Saud Al Faisal comes to hail and praise the late diplomat’s global position and his significant role, generous dedication, and constructive efforts in the common Gulf work since the council’s establishment in 1981.

During the event, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, first deputy prime minister, and minister of Foreign Affairs recalled virtues of the late Saudi Foreign Minister. He also pointed to his successful career as a diplomat and a politician, and hailed his honest and precious support to Kuwait during the Iraqi barbarian invasion.

The Prince Saud Al Faisal Center for Conferences enjoys a great significance, as it is equipped with the latest technology. With strategic location and modern facilities, the center contains a full range of rooms to host multiple concurrent meetings at all levels.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Prince Turki Al Faisal described Saud Al-Faisal as a modest and brave man who has left a great heritage of achievements.

Gulf States: Our Doors Open to Iran on Principle of Good Neighborliness


Riyadh – Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said on Thursday that big problems persist between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and Iran, adding that the council’s doors were open to Tehran on the principle of good neighborliness, respect of states’ sovereignty, noninterference in their internal affairs and rejection of sectarianism.

Speaking after a GCC Ministerial Council in its 142nd Session held at the headquarters of the GCC Secretariat General in Riyadh under the chairmanship of Bahrain, Al-Khalifa told Asharq Al-Awsat that GCC countries heard from the Iranian side some suggestions concerning disputed issues existing between both sides. He described those suggestions as “not very deep and indirect.”

He said GCC foreign ministers would send a report in this regard to the council’s head of states during their next meeting. “We hope to achieve something in this regard,” Al-Khalifa said.

The Bahraini foreign minister, also Chairman of the GCC’s current session, called on Iranians to extend their hands to the region.

“The region had always stretched its hand, but, in several issues, we have not seen any response from Iran.”

Al-Khalifa added that relations with Iran were not good. “There are several disputed issues between us and the Iranians concerning the region, such as fighting terrorism, the interference in the affairs of Arab states and the support of Iranian-linked terrorist groups. But, we do not close the doors… We should seek to establish better relations,” he said.

The Bahraini foreign minister also confirmed the unchanged stances of GCC states regarding the Yemeni file, adding that their target is to reach a pure Yemeni solution, achieved by Yemenis in the benefit of their country, with the support of the GCC through the legitimate government of Yemen.

He said GCC states mainly object the fact that Houthi militias were receiving support from Iran.

“Yemen should be spared from any external interference. GCC states support this demand and won’t change their position,” he noted.