Tillerson Heads to the Gulf, Kuwaiti FM Discusses Crisis with Qatar Emir

Washington and Dammam – The US State Department announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will begin on Friday a tour that will take him to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India, and Switzerland.

In Riyadh, Tillerson will take part in the inaugural Coordination Council meeting between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He will also meet with various Saudi leaders to discuss the conflict in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute with Qatar, stance on Iran, and a number of other important regional and bilateral issues.

The statement also mentioned that Tillerson will then travel to Doha, where he will meet with Qatari leaders and US military officials to discuss joint counter-terrorism efforts, the ongoing Gulf dispute, and other regional and bilateral issues, including Iran and Iraq.

Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah arrived in Qatar to discuss the latest developments of the Gulf crisis and the Kuwaiti efforts to settle it through dialogue.

The FM and his accompanying delegation met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani where the two discussed “the close and brotherly relations between the two countries as well as regional and international issues,” according to Qatar News Agency.

Sabah also conveyed the greetings of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and his wishes of more progress and prosperity to the Emir and the Qatari people.

On Monday, Kuwait’s Emir went to the Saudi capital Riyadh where he met King Salman bin Abdulaziz to discuss the Qatar crisis and the latest developments in the region.

In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced that the four countries boycotting Qatar are constantly coordinating and will continue to do so until they detect a positive response from Doha.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva, Shoukry mentioned that the quartet is coordinating on possible measures against Qatar, which has refused to respond to the principles concerning the national security of the four countries boycotting Doha: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain.

The Egyptian FM stated that efforts will be exerted until the national security of the four countries is guaranteed and positive outcomes are detected which will lead to a change in Syria and Iraq.

He concluded that the measures of the quartet resulted in re-stabilizing the region.

Kuwait Representative Expels Israeli Delegation at Inter-Parliamentary Union Meeting in Russia

Kuwait’s Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem

Kuwait- The head of the Kuwait’s National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, lashed out at the Israeli Knesset delegation at the closing session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, which forced the delegation to leave the hall.

In front of delegations from more than 150 countries, Ghanem described the Israeli mission as “the occupier and the murderer of children”. He asked it to leave the conference room because of Israel’s violation of international law and the continued detention of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

“You should grab your bags and leave this hall as you have witnessed the reaction of every honorable parliament around the world,” he said, addressing the Israeli delegation.

“Leave now if you have one ounce of dignity, you occupier, you murderer of children.” The Israeli delegation left the talks following the remarks by Ghanem and several other parliaments in the midst of applause.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference kicked off its work on October 14 and ended on Wednesday.

Delegates representing 150 countries, including 100 speakers, 70 deputy speakers and 2,300 guests, including 840 parliamentarians, attended the conference under the theme of promoting multiculturalism and peace through interfaith and interreligious dialogue.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union gathers 173 Member Parliaments and 11 Associate Members. It works closely with the United Nations and other partner organizations that share common goals.

Established in 1889 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the Union is primarily financed by its members through public funds.

Four permanent committees operate within the framework of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, including the Permanent Committee on International Peace and Security, the Committee on Democracy and Human Rights, the Committee on United Nations Affairs and the Committee on Sustainable Development, Trade and Finance.

King Salman Asserts Saudi Support for Trump’s Firm Iran Policy

Saudi

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia said it supports and welcomes the recently announced United States strategy towards Iran, its hostile behavior, and funding of international and regional terror, said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz when chairing a cabinet session on Tuesday.

He also confirmed Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to collaborating with US partners in an effort to achieve objectives announced by US President Donald Trump.

At the outset of the cabinet session, King Salman briefed ministers on the telephone call he had with Trump during which the monarch emphasized Riyadh’s support of his firm strategy towards Iran, its aggressive activities and support for terrorism in the region and worldwide.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s full commitment to continue working with its partners in the US to achieve the desired goals announced by Trump.

The King also briefed the cabinet on the results of his meeting with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, during which they reviewed bilateral relations and discussed overall regional events.

The cabinet was briefed on the telephone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which the Palestinian leader reviewed with King Salman the recently signed Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.

King Salman gave great emphasis to “unity” in paving the way ahead for the Palestinian Authority to further serve its citizens. He said that the Kingdom is looking forward to this important reconciliation, which realizes the hopes and aspirations of all Palestinians.

The King briefed the cabinet on a telephone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi during which he stressed Riyadh’s support for Iraq’s unity, security and stability. He underlined the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi constitution for the interest of Iraq and its people.

The Cabinet also reviewed a number of regional and international developments, including outcomes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual and the World Bank (WB) meetings in Washington.

Meetings focused on the development of the Kingdom’s economy and its efforts in implementing its transformation Vision 2030, affiliated operational programs and initiatives.

King Salman Holds Talks with Emir of Kuwait

Riyadh- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz received, at his palace on Monday, Kuwait’s emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jabir Al-Sabah and his accompanying delegation, currently on a visit to the Kingdom.

During the royal audience, the two leaders reviewed close relations binding the two countries and overall regional developments, in addition to issues of common interest.

On the other hand, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques held a luncheon banquet, in grace of the visiting Emir of Kuwait, which was attended by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh Region, Mansur bin Miteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State and Advisor to the King, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of the National Guard, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, various royal and non-royal princes, Kuwaiti accompanying delegation, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Thamer Jabir Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah and other officials.

Kuwaiti Emir to Conduct Gulf Tour to Resolve Qatar Crisis

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah attends the opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha

Kuwait- Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah is expected to start a Gulf tour this week as part of his efforts to resolve the Qatari crisis ahead of a Gulf summit in Kuwait next December.

The holding of the summit is faced by several obstacles, including the boycott imposed by a number of Gulf States on Doha on the basis of Qatar’s policy that contributes to destabilizing the region and the Arab world.

“Talks between the Saudi and Kuwaiti sides will focus on the ongoing rift between Qatar and the quartet countries, the means to address differences at the negotiating table and finding solutions that will resolve the crisis radically,” Germany’s official news agency quoted a Saudi source as saying.

The sources refused to comment on current reports suggesting that a close solution to the crisis could be reached by holding a meeting of the leaders of the six Gulf countries and Egypt at a summit hosted by Kuwait according to a specific roadmap with the guarantee of the Emir of Kuwait.

“The wisdom and experience of Sheikh Sabah will facilitate the achievement of practical solutions that ensure Qatar’s abidance by the basic principles required by the four countries, the adoption of procedures to converge views based on the commitment to the six principles adopted in 2013, their implementation mechanism, which was issued in 2014, and the written commitment by the Emir of Qatar to implement them,” the sources noted.

Last week, Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister, Khalid al-Jarallah, said that Kuwait had not yet sent invitations to Gulf Arab leaders for the Gulf Summit.

“It was usual at every Gulf summit to send invitations before an appropriate time, but it is too early to talk about these invitations now and send them to our brothers in the Gulf States,” he said.

Jarallah said he was optimistic about reaching a solution to the crisis. He also expressed hope that the dispute between Gulf brothers would be addressed ahead of the upcoming Gulf summit.

“The Kuwaiti mediation efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis will not fail and will continue with the help of the United States,” he said late last month.

Kuwait’s Ice Ladies to Mark Presence on Hockey Rinks

Kuwait- In their red, white and blue uniforms, Kuwait’s first female ice hockey team is training hard in the desert ahead of their debut world tournament later this month.

Athletes in hijab or with their hair hastily tied in topknots pull on their helmets before taking to the rink in the Kuwaiti capital, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius.

Team player Bahar Al-Harban told AFP: “It’s totally new, girls playing this sort of demanding sport here in Kuwait and in the Gulf, but it goes to show that in sports there is truly no difference between men and women.”

According to the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA), Kuwait’s women’s ice hockey team first emerged in 2007, as part of an initiative launched by the Kuwait Winter Sports Federation.

However, the team was suspended due to the lack of financial capacities, before being re-launched recently by the federation.

Although winter sports are not familiar in the Arab World, sports on ice have made headlines recently. Along with women hockey practiced in many countries, UAE national Zahra Lari has gained popularity as the Emirates’ first female figure skater and the first international figure skater to compete in hijab.

According to KUNA, Kuwait’s women’s ice hockey team will play their first international game on October 30 at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Bangkok.

Kuwait’s women’s ice hockey team is composed of 56 players between the ages of 15 and 30, some of them mothers who frequently bring their children to training.

Shile the athletes have the support of their teammates and, increasingly, of their communities, what they lack is their own training facility. For now, they still rent the ice rink in a state-run ski lounge.

Sheikha Naima Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwaiti Women’s Sports Authority said: “We need facilities dedicated to training women to convince families that that their daughters need to be involved in sports.”

“We initially faced some resistance due to social traditions, but the culture of women in sports is spreading and we’re not regular faces at Asian tournaments,” she told AFP, adding “So we are progressing, but slowly, because some of our girls immediately marry at a certain age, or because they choose to wear hijab in a world where you’re not allowed into certain sports like basketball if you choose to wear hijab.”

International basketball governing body FIBA in May rescinded a ban on hijab and other forms of religious head covers, which on the grounds that they could potentially fall off and pose a risk to players.

But with its oversized jerseys, shin guards and helmets, hockey is a good fit for many of players.

Team player Khaleda Abdel Karim said her family didn’t oppose her participation in the hockey team, noting that the uniform totally covers everything, so she finds no difficulties at all in that sense.

Despite the warm welcome the team has received, the women are still fighting to both secure the best for their athletes — and to overcome culture challenges both at home and abroad.

Sabah said in order to get the best results, players need to be given the best training. “What we need are good coaches, professional trainers,” she added.

Kuwait: Economic Reform Provides $3.3 Bn, Plans to Raise Debt Ceiling

Kuwait- Kuwait’s Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh said the economic reform measures provided the country with more than one billion dinars, equivalent to 3.3 billion dollars in the fiscal year 2016-2017 budget.

The most prominent of these reforms were the raising of gasoline prices in 2016, the adjustment of the ceiling and growth rate of public expenditure, the suspension of uncontrolled expansion in the establishment of public bodies and institutions and the acceleration of the process of collection of outstanding state arrears.

The economic reforms also included plans to introduce a 10 percent tax on corporate net profits in addition to the application of value added tax, which the GCC countries have decided to adopt at 5 percent, said Saleh during “Euromoney Kuwait 2017” Conference.

Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) also grew its assets by more than 34 percent over the last five years, noted the Finance Minister.

According to Saleh, the states reserves and assets managed by the KIA are stable. “This is considered the safety vale to our national economy during any crisis and for the future generations, in addition to enhancing state’s high creditworthiness,” he said.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute ranks KIA as the world’s fourth-biggest sovereign fund, managing $524 billion.

Kuwait’s financial leadership heralded a positive outlook for the country’s slow growing economy, pointing to a significant reduction in government spending and growth in assets under management as key achievements.

Kuwait shaved off “more than KD one billion in government expenditure between 2016 and 2017,” said Saleh.

“To reach this result the public financial bodies implemented measures including adjusting cap and growth rate of public spending and treating the waste in this spending, accelerating the process of collecting late state debts, shifting from the annual budget system to the medium-term budget system, limiting the violations of the social allowances and other measures,” he explained.

For his part, Head of the debt management department at the Ministry of Finance Abdulaziz al-Mulla said that Kuwait’s parliament is likely to approve a law to extend the country’s borrowing limits, enabling 30-year debt issues.

The law would allow Kuwait to increase its debt ceiling to 25 billion Kuwaiti dinar ($83 billion) from 10 billion currently, and it would also allow the Gulf state to issue debt instruments with maturities of up to 30 years, from a current limit of 10 years.

“We’re optimistic that the parliament will pass the law as it is, it’s a matter of getting it though the process,” Mulla said during the conference.

Kuwait issued a debut $8 billion international bond in March with maturities of five and 10 years.

“The government decided to extend its borrowing limit to 30 years after noting interest from pension and insurance funds for long-term paper when the bond sale was presented to international investors,” Mulla explained.

“We believe time is a very important aspect, as we need to finance this fiscal year, from the beginning of April to the end of March 2018, and as we all know there are windows in the market,” he added, without specifying when a new bond issue is likely.

Yemen Envoy Ould Cheikh Resumes Talks after Getting Term Extension

Cheikh

Cairo, London and New York – United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will commence a new round of consultations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman aimed at finding the basis for resuming negotiations between the Yemeni government and Houthi and Saleh insurgents to reach a comprehensive settlement for the crisis, diplomatic sources affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Another Arab diplomat meanwhile revealed that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres extended the term of Ould Cheikh for six months.

Ould Cheikh will start his round of talks once he returns from New York where he was participating in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Sources stressed that talks will kick off from outcomes of the national dialogue, Gulf initiative, the related UN Security Council resolutions and Arab Summits on Yemen.

Talks will also tackle the suggested date to start negotiations between the crisis parties in Yemen. It has been proposed to hold the talks in October in either Kuwait or Oman, said the sources.

Ould Cheikh reiterated, as reported by Sky News Arabia, that the humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic, holding all parties are responsible for it. He added that although the crisis is humanitarian, its resolution is political.

Kuwait Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al Sabah said during his speech at the General Assembly that his country has exerted relentless efforts to settle the conflict in Yemen peacefully.

Moreover, Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit met Ould Cheikh on the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the latter’s contacts with international, regional and Yemeni parties related to the crisis.

Kuwait to Expel North Korea Ambassador

Korea

Kuwait will expel the North Korean ambassador as the US and Asian nations stepped up pressure on their allies to sever ties with the isolated state in wake of its recent nuclear test and missile launch over Japan.

A Gulf-based official confirmed on Sunday that Kuwait would be expelling the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports. A letter Kuwait sent in August to the United Nations also made that pledge.

Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Kuwait’s move will potentially limit Pyongyang’s ability to earn money for its nuclear program from laborers it sends to the Gulf.

Four diplomats will also be asked to leave the oil-rich state along with Ambassador So Chang Sik. That will leave four diplomats at the embassy. The embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

North Korea’s Embassy in Kuwait City serves as its only diplomatic outpost in the Gulf. Pyongyang has thousands of laborers working in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, traveled to Washington and met with US President Donald Trump this month. In a statement, the US Embassy in Kuwait City called Kuwait “a key regional partner on (North Korea) and many other issues.”

“Kuwait has taken positive steps in regards to implementing UN resolutions related to” Pyongyang, it said.

While a small market compared to China and Russia, the amount of money North Korean laborers in the Gulf kick back to the government helps Pyongyang evade international sanctions, authorities say.

A 2015 UN report suggested that the more than 50,000 North Koreans working overseas earned Pyongyang between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. Other estimates put earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Trump agreed to exert stronger pressure through sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests, South Korea’s presidential office said following a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday.

“The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation, and exert stronger and practical sanctions on North Korea so that it realizes provocative actions leads to further diplomatic isolation and economic pressure,” Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a televised briefing.

The Blue House said Moon and Trump had strongly condemned the latest missile launch by North Korea, and agreed that the two nations would work with the international community to implement the latest UN Security Council’s resolution 2375, Park said.

Kuwait, Venezuela Deny Existence of a ‘Current Agreement’ to Extend Oil Cut

Kuwait- Each of Kuwait and Venezuela confirmed that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is not nearly close to extending the current cut in production agreement, saying onlookers are trying to introduce the idea into the market.

Kuwait Oil Minister Essam al-Marzouq holds a press conference with Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino in Kuwait city on Wednesday.

Oil Minister Marzouq said OPEC could hold an extraordinary meeting in mid-March if it did not reach a decision on extending oil production cuts when it meets in November.

The two ministers explained that they are against speculation in the market and false broadcasts are core to negatively affecting price rates at the moment.

OPEC and other major producers, including Russia, agreed at the end of last year to cut oil production by 1.8 million bpd to support rebalancing the market. In May they agreed to extend the agreement until March 2018.

The Venezuelan oil minister said that every time ministers hold any meetings, speculators try to create an environment that suggests there is “confirmation” of a decision to extend the agreement.

Ministers were aiming for oil prices to be at $60 or more a barrel when they first agreed last year to cut output, but crude is trading at $10 less than what they had expected, Del Pino said.

Kuwait and Venezuela are both on the joint ministerial monitoring committee, known as the JMMC, that reviews compliance with the agreed cuts. The committee will meet on Sept. 22 in Vienna, and Marzouq and Del Pino said there will be no serious discussions of an extension then.

“The JMMC meeting next week is to review the agreement and not take any decision,” Del Pino said. “Speculators are trying to create an environment that we will be taking a decision next week.”

Marzouq said the committee is currently considering six scenarios and may discuss a recommendation to ease production targets for countries that aren’t complying fully with the cuts accord. Ecuador announced in July that it won’t be able to meet its target because it needs to boost its revenue.

Nigeria, which together with Libya is exempt from OPEC’s cuts deal due to internal strife, has agreed to join the agreement if it reaches and sustains crude production at 1.8 million barrels day, Kuwait’s Marzouq said.

Nigeria’s oil minister has assured that he will attend the next JMMC meeting, while Libya will send a senior official, probably the head of its national oil company, Marzouq said.