UAE Implements Ministerial Adjustments in Preparation for Next Stage


Dubai – The UAE has reshuffled ministries by introducing four new ministerial posts, merging some functions and sectors into a single ministry and implementing structural adjustments.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced on Thursday the new government after consultation with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

New ministerial posts were established to cope with latest scientific and technological developments, in addition to some structural changes, which fall within the framework of government’s plan to meet the requirements of the next stage.

Three new ministries were created, including the Minister of Artificial Intelligence, the Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and the Minister of State for Food Security.

Other ministries have seen structural changes, including the Ministry of State for Happiness, to which the Quality of Life file has been added, the Ministry of State for Higher Education, which now comprises the Advanced Skills, and the Ministry of Energy, which now includes the Industry sector.

Sheikh Mohammed appointed Oman bin Sultan Al Olama, 27, as the first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The appointment comes just two days after the announcement of the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, a major initiative in the UAE Centennial 2071 objectives.

As for the new post of Minister of State for Food Security, it has been given to Maryam Al Muhairi.

“Food security is a future national issue, its foundation will be research and scientific projects … we have great confidence in our youth,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

As for advanced sciences, Sara Al Amiri, 30, was appointed to lead her new ministry into research, development and manufacture of “scientific competencies”, according to Sheikh Mohammed.

The Ministry of State for Higher Education has been expanded to include Advanced Skills “to ensure lifelong learning among the country’s young people.”

Saudi Arabia Welcomes Palestinian Reconciliation, Hopes It Consecrates National Unity

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman chairs the Cabinet's session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh. Saudi Gazette

Riyadh- Saudi Cabinet stressed on Monday what Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had said during his meetings with Russian officials regarding calling the international community to intensify efforts to combat extremism and terrorism and dry up their sources of funding.

The cabinet also reiterated the necessity to end the suffering of the Palestinians and the importance of maintaining stability and security in the Gulf and the Middle East to achieve global security and stability.

It also tackled the importance of the political settlement for the Yemeni crisis, the end of the crisis in Syria while maintaining its unity, protecting Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity and uniting its internal front to fight terrorism and calling upon the international community to shoulder its responsibilities with regard to Muslims in Rohingya.

This came during the cabinet session, which was held at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday under the chairmanship of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who briefed the cabinet on the outcomes of his visit to Russia and his talks and meetings with President Vladimir Putin and prominent Russian officials.

He also talked about his meetings with Presidents of Tatarstan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Bashkiria during which they discussed bilateral relations to achieve the aspirations of the two countries and push them forward to broader, more comprehensive horizons.

He emphasized, during his meetings in Russia, on the Kingdom’s keenness to boost relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia and on the continuity of positive bilateral cooperation to achieve the stability of the world oil markets for the interest of the global economic growth.

Internally, the cabinet praised the achievements made by the State Security Presidency as it managed to dismantle an ISIS-linked terrorist cell along with raiding three sites affiliated to the cell and arresting five of its members in addition to 22 persons accused of inciting criminalized acts according to the Islamic Sharia and law and the country’s regulations.

Following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad bin Saleh al-Awwad told SPA that the cabinet has commended the outcomes of King Salman’s visit to Russia, which contributed to strengthening and cementing bilateral relations, the exchange of agreements, memorandums of understanding and cooperation programs signed between the two countries.

The Cabinet expressed gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for the royal decrees he had issued to meet the needs of the homeland and its citizens, including the establishment of the National Development Fund to carry out the general supervision, as organization, regulatory and operational of the funds and banks in order to improve their performance to achieve the desired goals of their establishment, reflecting the wise leadership’s interest in supporting the march of supporting development programs and projects that serve citizens directly.

He said that the Cabinet reviewed a number of reports on latest regional and international developments, welcoming the development of the Palestinian reconciliation efforts and expressed the Kingdom’s hope that the efforts of the Government of Reconciliation will contribute to the consolidation of national unity and the unity of Palestinian ranks to meet the ambitions of the brotherly Palestinian people.

Lebanon Overpasses Tests of Taxes, Repercussions of Bassil-Moallem Meeting


Beirut- The Lebanese government overpassed on Friday the test of a tax law and the repercussions of a meeting held last week in New York between its Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem.

On Friday, the cabinet convened at the Grand Serail in Beirut and adopted a new tax law to finance the salary scale.

However, in order to avoid disturbing the government alliance, ministers at the Cabinet failed to address disputes related to a meeting held between the foreign ministers of Lebanon and the Syrian regime in New York.

By adopting the new tax law, the government ended the civil servants strike that started early this week across the country.

After a decision of the Constitutional Council to overturn a tax law, the Lebanese Cabinet faced a deadlock in providing resources to fund a salary scale for public employees, who were angry from the possibility of not receiving their financial rights.

The Union Coordination Committee (UCC) called for a general strike Monday in all public administrations, schools, and municipalities to put pressure on the government to pay public employees according to the new salary scale.

“We reached today an expedited draft law that includes the necessary tax adjustments. We will send it to Parliament for approval as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said following the session.

He added that the “political consensus that continues and on which we are keen, the President of the Republic, all the parties in the government and I, has produced this solution, which some thought would be complicated, but in the end, we reached it.”

And while the prime minister did not deny the presence of a political dispute concerning communications with the Syrian regime, Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merhebi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that the issue was not discussed by the Cabinet in its last two meetings held this week.

“The repercussions of the (Bassil-Moallem) meeting were not tackled,” he said, warning that the current state linked to communications held with Damascus aside from the government’s approval “cannot continue.”

Meanwhile, the US sanctions passed on Thursday against Hezbollah reflected worries in the ranks of the party, which placed the new US bills in the framework of “intimidating all Lebanese.”

Lebanese Government Sets Elections Date, Appoints Supervisory Body

Beirut– Lebanon’s Cabinet formed Thursday an electoral body to prepare for next year’s parliamentary polls.

The supervisory body “is a first step in the process of preparation for the elections and must be followed by other accelerated measures”, official sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

The sources added that the Interior Ministry formed a specialized technical committee, which includes representatives of the ministry’s different departments, to coordinate arrangements for the upcoming elections.

Following the Cabinet session on Thursday at the presidential palace in Baabda, Information Minister Melhem Riachi said that the supervisory body would be headed by Judge Nadim Abdel-Malek and would include ten members, who are representatives of “civil society and unions.”

The elections are set to take place in May 2018 – the first time Lebanese voters are able to go to the polls since 2009.

The committee will be tasked with controlling electoral spending, receiving financial statements of electoral campaigns, managing requests by media outlets wishing to participate in paid electoral advertisements, in accordance with the provisions of the electoral law, monitoring compliance to the regulations and preparing reports to be submitted to the president, the speaker and the prime minister.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the executive director of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), Omar Kaboul, described Cabinet’s appointment of the supervisory body as a “positive step”, pointing out that one of the experts designated by civil society associations was selected as a member of the body.

“But we still insist that this body should be fully independent, not subject to the authority of the Ministry of the Interior,” he stated.

Ben Ali’s Ministers Take Over New Scene in Tunisia

Tunisia's PM-designate Youssef Chahed speaks during a news conference after his meeting with Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis

Tunisia- The expanded cabinet reshuffle in Tunisia included the return of senior ministers from the regime of former President Zine El Abidine ben Ali despite ongoing debate over national reconciliation.

The most prominent feature of the reshuffle was the appointment of senior security official Lotfi Brahim as interior minister, replacing former security minister Hadi Majdoub.

Brahim’s appointment received support from the ruling party, Nidaa Tounes, and the security syndicates. Lotfi is the former commander-in-chief of the Tunisian National Guard.

Former Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi returned to his post that he had between 2011 and 2013.
Zbidi was known mainly as one of Ben Ali’s ministers, and he has held various portfolios during his reign, most notably Minister of Health in 2001 and Minister of Scientific Research in 2002.

For his part, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party Naaman al-Ash criticized the new cabinet structure and said it included symbols of the former regime.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed also reassigned Ridha Chalghoum, a former finance minister close to the ruling Nidaa Tounes party, to the same position.

Radhouane Ayara, a former member of the dissolved Democratic Constitutional Rally Party, became the minister of transport, and Naziha Laabidi, a former member of the National Progressive Unionist (Tagammu) Party’s central committee, became the minister of women, family and children.

Hatem Ben Salem, a former diplomat and the last minister of education in Ben Ali’s regime, was named to fill the same post, which has been vacant since the dismissal of former minister Naji Jalul last April despite reservations by syndicate and opposition parties.

Chahed said Monday that his new cabinet will be a “war government that will fight terrorism and corruption.”

“We need to expand the circle of political consensus and national unity and this is the basis for our choices in the recent reform,” Chahed added in a speech to the Tunisian parliament.

Erdogan Keeps his Grip on the Government to Set the Stage for Presidential System

Ankara- Turkey’s government witnessed a reshuffle on Wednesday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara.

A cabinet reshuffle has been on the agenda since Erdogan had regained his seat as chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after the April 16 referendum.

Erdogan had complained of a “fatigue” within the ruling party, speaking of a need for rejuvenation.

Yıldırım held a press conference Wednesday regarding the changes in the cabinet. Out of the reshuffle involving 11 ministers, six were new names, appointed to ministerial posts for the first time.

He said that five ministers would be replaced. Former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, former Health Minister Recep Akdag and former Defense Minister Fikri Isık were appointed as deputy prime ministers.

These changes indicate that Yıldırım wanted to work with figures he can better cooperate in the new process.

“All our friends who have been appointed to the cabinet and those who are leaving have outstanding qualifications. This is a flag race, a regeneration of the government,” Yıldırım told reporters after he announced the new cabinet.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who is in charge of economy, kept his seat in the cabinet and became the sole deputy prime minister running the economy.

With the cabinet reshuffle, a new era will start with the aim to create key legal, political and economic structures for the new presidential system.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus was announced as the new culture and tourism minister.

The 65th government in Turkish republican history, also known as the Yıldırım cabinet, was formed on May 24, 2016, after former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s resignation on May 5.

Until Wednesday, the only change in the cabinet had taken place with former Interior Minister Efkan Ala’s resignation on August 31, 2016. Ala was replaced with Suleyman Soylu, labor and social security minister at the time, and Mehmet Müezzinoglu was appointed to Soylu’s former post.

Despite expectations, no major changes have taken place in the foreign team. EU Minister Omer Celik and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu preserved their places although speculations were high that Erdogan’s chief foreign policy advisor Ibrahim Kalın could resume a role in a foreign-policy related position at the cabinet.

Turkey’s referendum approved a series of constitutional changes abolishing the office of the prime minister and concentrating much of the executive powers in the hands of the president.

While most of the changes will come into effect after the next general elections in 2019, one amendment came into effect immediately — scrapping laws that require the head of the state to sever ties with political parties.

Erdogan was reelected chairman of the ruling party in an extraordinary congress on May 21.

The cabinet reshuffle is seen as a major step toward his cementing his authority and putting his mark on the government ahead of the 2019 elections.

Rouhani Meets Khamenei to Discuss New Government Formation


London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to meet with Spiritual Leader Ali Khamenei to discuss the formation of the new government, amid bickering between the Iranian prime minister, the IRGC and the judiciary.

Rouhani is facing increasing pressure from his opponents, who are looking to impose a compromise on his second government, in light of the presidential elections results, which saw the president winning 16 million votes.

While the formation of the new government has turned into a controversial issue, the past days have seen strong bickering between Rouhani and leaders from the IRGC, following harsh criticism by the president of the military apparatus’ interference in the country’s economic, political and media affairs.

In this context, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that Rouhani was currently holding talks with regime officials to form a new government. He added that the president was seeking the creation of a cabinet that would meet the Iranian people’s economic, social and political aspirations.

Jahangiri noted that a meeting is expected to be held on Monday between Rouhani and Khamenei to discuss the cabinet issue.

The Iranian spiritual leader usually intervenes in five ministries, which include the defense, security, interior, foreign affairs, culture and media – but key ministries such as the economy and oil are likely to see a change in ministers, according to well-informed political sources.

Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Zangeneh, said he did not expect to remain in Rouhani’s second government, especially following mounting pressure he faced last week after signing an agreement with France’s Total company.

The Iranian Constitution stipulates that the minister of justice is chosen from among the names proposed by the head of the judiciary.

Ambiguity also surrounds the future of Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, as Rouhani must obtain the approval of Khamenei, whether he wanted to keep Zarif or change him.

Lebanese PM: Electoral Law Right Around the Corner

Beirut- Lebanon’s electoral law remains at the center of meetings held between different political parties striving to reach an agreement on a structure that is acceptable by all sides.

However, discussions on such a draft-law was absent from Wednesday’s cabinet session chaired by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who said he was optimistic about reaching a solution.

Hariri stressed the electoral law was right around the corner.

“We still have 19 days to agree on a new electoral law. I am optimistic about reaching a solution, and this is what we must work on achieving, and we are working day and night to overcome the remaining difficulties,” Hariri said at the start of the cabinet session.

He also urged ministers to abide by what was agreed on to preserve the government’s solidarity, and stressed that the door is open for the discussion of any idea in the council of ministers.

Meanwhile, political observers are waiting for a speech by President Michel Aoun during the Iftar hosted by the Presidential Palace in Baabda on Thursday.

The president might announce a “final agreement on the electoral law based on the proportional system and on dividing the country into 15 electoral districts.”

Sources close to the electoral file predicted that Aoun’s position would be preceded by a closed meeting between him, Speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri.

“As Prime Minister Hariri said, we are working on the final agreement” on the electoral law, Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury told reporters at the end of the cabinet session.

For their part, deputies who met with Berri on Wednesday quoted him as saying that he “was awaiting for the outcome of ongoing contacts regarding the vote law based on 15 districts.”

According to the MPs, Berri hoped that the different parties would strike a deal on a new vote law as soon as possible.

Also Wednesday, Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq told reporters following the cabinet session that if a new electoral law based on 15 districts was approved, then there would not be enough time to hold the elections within three months.

On May 21, Lebanon missed the first deadline for conducting the parliamentary elections.

Saudi Arabia Calls for Containing Iran’s ‘Nefarious’ Regional Threats


Jeddah – The Saudi cabinet praised on Monday the Saudi-American joint communiqué, which was issued at the conclusion of US President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to the Kingdom.

The cabinet also said that his visit has contributed to consolidating Saudi-US relations and promoting stability, security and prosperity in the region.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz chaired the cabinet session held at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah.

“The Declaration of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the US President on their common stance to confront mutual foes aims at deepening existing bonds and draws up a path for peace and prosperity for all,” the cabinet said in a statement.

It added that the two countries have expressed a shared willingness to confront common threats and to engage in new initiatives to counter violent and extremist rhetoric and to hamper the financing of terrorism.

The statement also highlighted a joint Saudi-US agreement to contain Iran’s “nefarious” interference in other countries’ internal affairs.

On a different note, the cabinet commended the outcome of the 172nd Ministerial Conference of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held in Vienna last week, during which the member states agreed to extend the current production reduction agreement signed last year for a period of nine months, which ends in late March 2018.

It also hailed the outcome of the 2nd Ministerial Meeting between the OPEC countries and ten non-OPEC major producing countries, endorsing the current extension agreement.

The Saudi cabinet highlighted the importance of the Kingdom’s petroleum policy in support of cooperation with the main producing countries to restore balance to the world oil markets and reduce fluctuations in a way that ensures the interests of both producers and consumers alike.

The statement said that the cabinet reiterated its support to the measures taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to maintain its security and stability and the safety of its citizens.

It also expressed the Kingdom’s strong condemnation of the armed attack in Minya in Egypt last week and reaffirmed its support for the measures taken by the Egyptian government to defend its security and protect its people in line with international law.

The cabinet voiced Riyadh’s emphasis on the importance of concerted international efforts to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and extremism.

Saudi Cabinet Underlines Strategic Importance of Riyadh Summits

Saudi Cabinet Underlines Strategic Importance of Riyadh Summits

Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz said that talks and meetings held during the visit of US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia have “embodied the great concern and determination of all participating countries to confront different challenges and strengthen the foundations of peace, security and stability”.

King Salman chaired the Cabinet session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday.

At the outset of the session, the King expressed his thanks and appreciation to the US president and leaders of Arab and Islamic countries, who took part in the 17th consultative meeting of leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, Gulf-American Summit and Arab-Islamic-American Summit hosted by the Kingdom on Sunday.

The Saudi monarch underlined the importance of the “historic agreement” signed between the GCC and the US to fight terrorism financing by establishing a center for combating such acts in Riyadh.

The King noted that the agreement was the result of joint efforts to combat terrorism. He also lauded the announcement of the establishment of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which is aimed at spreading the principles of moderation and strengthening families and societies against extremist ideologies.

King Salman added that discussions with Trump touched on historical relations between the two countries and means to promote cooperation in the different fields.

He added that latest developments in the Middle East and the world were reviewed, as well as efforts to establish stability and security in the region.

Highlighting the importance of the joint strategic vision, which was announced at the end of the two-day meetings, the King said that Saudi and US officials have exchanged a number of trade agreements and investment opportunities that exceeded the value of $280 billion.

King Salman stressed that the meetings with Trump, in addition to discussions between senior officials of the two countries and the economic forums held on the sidelines of the visit were considered a turning point in relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In a statement following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said that the Cabinet highlighted the valuable contents of the speech delivered by King Salman at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit.

The Cabinet pointed to the King’s emphasis on the common responsibility of Arab and Islamic states to be united in the fight against the forces of extremism in compliance with the teachings of the Islamic religion and the values of peace, tolerance, and moderation.