ICAO Rejects Qatar’s Complaint against Arab Quartet

Riyadh, Dammam- The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council has rejected a complaint by Qatar, made in accordance to Article 54 (N) of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944), over measures adopted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

The Council secretariat presented a working paper supporting a technical report submitted by the four countries that proved the safety of the air according to the contingency plan, which was activated in accordance with Annex 11 of the Chicago Convention.

A joint working paper submitted by the quartet boycotting Qatar detailed measures taken in cooperation with the ICAO Regional Office in Cairo to promote safety over international waters in the Middle East region, which features the opening of nine additional air routes to relieve the pressure on current routes over international waters.

Meanwhile, Qatar took escalatory actions on Monday by filing a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge a trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, the director of Qatar’s WTO office Ali Alwaleed Al Thani told Reuters.

Reuters noted that by formally “requesting consultations” with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar triggered a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

The Arab Peninsula has also accused Saudi Arabia on Monday of stopping its citizens from attending the Hajj pilgrimage this month.

In a statement, the Qatari Islamic Affairs Ministry said the Saudi side had “refused to communicate regarding securing the pilgrims safety and facilitating their Hajj”, a claim that is strongly rejected by Saudi Arabia, which has reiterated on several occasions that it welcomes all Muslim pilgrims wishing to visit holy sites.

On the other hand, Iran’s official news agency published a report on Sunday, showing the good reception of the first Iranian pilgrims who arrived to Medina.

The report added that Saudi Hajj officials and members of the Hajj mission have welcomed the Iranian pilgrims, and offered them bouquets of flowers and dates baskets upon their arrival.

On a different note, Kuwait said it was maintaining its mediation efforts aiming to contain the Gulf crisis “amongst brothers,” Deputy Foreign Ministers Khaled Al-Jarallah stressed on Sunday.

“We are pinning big hopes on efforts by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in this matter,” he said in a remark to reporters.

Qatar Central Bank Reserves Drop by $10.4 bln in June

The Qatar central bank’s net international reserves plunged by $10.4 billion in June to $24.4 billion because of economic sanctions imposed by other Arab states, central bank data showed on Sunday.
Reserves hit their lowest level in at least five years.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, causing some banks and portfolio investment funds to pull money from the country, depleting the reserves.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is estimated to have around $180 billion or more of liquid foreign assets which could be used to replenish the central bank reserves when authorities decide that is necessary.

Arab Foreign Ministers Meet, Say Ready for Qatar Dialogue with Conditions

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on Sunday held a meeting in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, over the ongoing crisis with the gulf’s gas-rich peninsula, Qatar.

Unanimously, the quartet agreed to the need on Qatar halting all support and financing of terrorism, providing security for fugitive criminals.

All four countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have imposed a stringent diplomatic boycott in hopes of Qatar later steering clear from the detrimental foreign policy it has been advancing.

Qatar’s funding of terrorism and support for overall hate rhetoric had brought about major challenges to regional stability and security.

In a statement issued following their meeting today, the ministers expressed appreciation of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for the reception he held for them during which he briefed them on his wise vision that aim at achieving common Arab interests and keeping close solidarity among the four countries, reported the Saudi state-owned news agency SPA.

The Ministers reviewed the latest developments regarding Qatar crisis as well as the contacts they made regionally and internationally in this regard.

The four countries expressed their willingness to engage in a dialogue with Qatar, provided that Qatar declares its sincere and practical desire to stop supporting and financing terrorism and extremism, disseminating hate rhetoric and interfering in the affairs of other countries, as well as implementing established demands.

The ministers stressed the continued close coordination to enhance solidarity among the four countries, support Arab national security and eradicate terrorism in order to preserve regional and international peace and security.

The four countries reaffirmed the six principles that were announced during Cairo meeting, which represent the international consensus on fighting terrorism and extremism and their financing in addition to rejecting interference in the affairs of other countries that is contrary to international laws. They also stressed the importance of implementing Riyadh agreements (2013-2014) which have not yet been carried forth by Qatar.

The four countries also stressed that all procedures taken against Qatar are acts of sovereignty and in conformity with the international law.

The four countries appreciated the role played by Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to resolve Qatar crisis.

The four countries also denounced the deliberate act of Qatari authorities to obstruct the performance of Hajj rituals by Qatari nationals.

The ministers agreed on continuing consultation and coordination until the crisis is resolved.

Palestinian Ambassador to Riyadh: The Kingdom Works in Silence, Achieves Concrete Results


Riyadh– Palestinian Ambassador to Riyadh Bassem Al-Agha said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has worked silently and away from the media, to resolve Al-Aqsa crisis, noting that the Kingdom was not looking to stir media propaganda, but to achieve positive results on the ground.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Al-Agha noted that efforts deployed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, along with the sacrifices of the Palestinian people have aborted the Zionist plan and would lead to further victories in the future.

The Palestinian ambassador stressed that Saudi Arabia was committed to supporting the Palestinian cause at all times and has never been late in meeting its obligations.

“About a month ago, the Kingdom has transferred around $30 million to UNRWA to help the refugees,” he stated.

He went on to say that efforts exerted by King Salman, which resulted in the removal of all Israeli measures around the Al-Aqsa, “reflect the pulse and feelings of every Saudi, Arab and Muslim citizen.”

The ambassador also noted that the Israeli plan was aimed at extending control over the holy mosque and imposing “spatial and temporal divisions” to determine the areas for Muslims and others for the Jews.

Meanwhile, a statement by the Saudi Royal Court issued on Thursday said: “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, has held contacts with many world leaders over the past few days,” in order to prevent Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City from being closed to Muslims and to defuse political and religious tensions.

King Salman contacted the US government and called for an end to restrictions on entry to the mosque, the statement said, saying that developments showed this push had been successful.

The king “stressed the need for the return of calm,” and called for respect for the sanctity of the compound, it added.

New State-Level Security Body Becomes a Leading Saudi Counterterrorism Effort


Riyadh- Royal orders issued by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Thursday highlighted a greater promotion and endorsement for a counterterrorism special forces unit.

Dubbed as the ‘Presidency of State Security’, the body is tasked with monitoring and fighting any funding or activities linked to terrorism.

The royal orders reshaped national security agency, bringing together counter-terrorism and domestic intelligence under the authority of a single body.

More so, the Thursday list of royal decrees saw the separation of many security bodies from the interior ministry—namely: general intelligence, special security forces, special emergency forces, security air forces, the directorate general of technical affairs, and the national information center.

All former sectors will function within the newly found security apparatus. Fiscal reviews and monitoring as well as anti-terror operations will be a function of the new body.

All that is related to the tasks of state security will be transferred from the security affairs agency and other authorities in interior ministry to the Presidency for State Security.

These include the functions of military and civil employees, budgets, documents and data.

Another Royal decree terminated the military services of General Abdulaziz Bin Muhammad Al-Huwairini and appointed him as Chief of State Security with the rank of minister. He will continue in his post as Director General of General Intelligence.

Another royal order appointed the Minister of Interior as member of the Council for Political and Security Affairs.

A royal decree appointing Abdullah Abdulkareem Bin Abdulaziz Al-Isa as Assistant Chief of State Security in the rank of minister has been issued.

The Chief of State Security will partake in the national Council for Political and Security Affairs.

The setting up of the Presidency for State Security will enable interior ministry authorities to provide better services to citizens and expatriates.

Establishing the state-level security apparatus will usher in a positive economic effect. It is expected to rationalize state expenditure, increase revenues, achieve economic growth in the Kingdom, create competitiveness for the Saudi economy, result in a growth of exports and decrease dependence on off-shore revenues.

Tens of billions of Saudi riyals will be saved from the state budget by raising work efficiency, reducing and rationalizing spending. The increase in revenues will have a positive effect on government spending on social services and infrastructure.

The late Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz is accredited to the visionary insight which brought about the establishment of the body. Therefore, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has approved and supported this vision and the concept of the Presidency for State Security.

Tillerson Sits with Ministers of Four Arab States Boycotting Qatar

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat down with ministers of four Arab states on Wednesday to try to end a dispute with Qatar.

The four countries imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, for its financing of extremist groups detrimental foreign policy. Doha denies those accusations. The four states and Qatar are all US allies.

Any resolution of the impasse must address all the key issues for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, including Doha’s undermining of regional stability, a senior UAE official said ahead of the talks in Saudi Arabia. His comments shed light on Tillerson’s uphill challenge.

Tillerson met the ministers in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah in pursuit of an end to the worst dispute among Gulf Arab states since the formation of their Gulf Cooperation Council regional body in 1981. Kuwait, which is mediating in the dispute also sent an envoy.

Tillerson also met separately with Saudi King Salman in talks focused on combating terrorism and its financing, the Saudi state news agency SPA said.

In a joint statement issued after Tillerson and his Qatari counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding on counterterroism efforts, the four countries issued a statement calling the accord inadequate.

Speaking to reporters in Bratislava, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said Tillerson’s visit was not likely to resolve the dispute.

“I think it will ease tensions but it’s just postponing the problem, which will grow in the future.”

The crisis goes beyond the financing of terrorism, said Jean-Marc Rickli, a risk analyst at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, pointing to Gulf fears about Iran’s expansionist aims, internal instability and the regional influence of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as competition for regional leadership.

France said its foreign minister would visit the Gulf, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, on July 15-16 as part of its own efforts to overcome the rift.

In their statement on Tuesday, the four boycotting states said they appreciated US efforts in fighting terrorism.

“… (But) such a step is not enough and they will closely monitor the seriousness of Qatar in combating all forms of funding, supporting and fostering of terrorism,” the statement said, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.

Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the dispute was rooted in an absence of trust and that any solution must address the four states’ grievances.

Qatar hosts Udeid Air Base, the largest US military facility in the Middle East, from which U.S.-led coalition aircraft stage sorties against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

“What makes Wednesday’s meeting in Jeddah difficult is that Tillerson has, since the beginning of the crisis, appeared to be taking the Qatari side,” a commentary published in Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat and Arab News newspapers said on Wednesday.

“Tillerson cannot impose reconciliation, but he could reduce the distance between the parties in the diplomatic rift — all of which are his allies — rather than taking the side of one against the other,” wrote columnist Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the former general manager of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel.

UK High Court Rules Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia as Lawful


The United Kingdom’s government announced on Monday that Britain’s multi-billion-pound arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been ruled as lawful by the High Court after it examined confidential evidence.

The court rejected the bid on ministers having acted illicitly when not suspending weapon sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The government said defense exports would continue to be reviewed, but the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said an appeal against the ruling was planned.

CAAT had sought an order to block export licenses for British-made bombs, fighter jets and other munitions which it said the Saudi-led Arab coalition was using in a campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen’s civil war.

Lord Justice Burnett and Sir Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting in London, said the decision to carry on the arms trade was not unlawful.

The judges said “closed material”, which had not been made public for national security reasons, “provides valuable additional support for the conclusion that the decisions taken by the secretary of state not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia were rational”.

Iran-backed Houthi coupists, and armed loyalists aligned with deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, began an attack in 2014, forcing the constitutionally elected President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the country for a time.

Since then the Saudi kingdom, and eight other mostly Arab states, have supported an air campaign aimed at reinstating Hadi’s government to power.

The government said UK defense exports would continue to be “under careful review” to ensure they meet the standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

“We welcome this judgment, which underscores the fact that the UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world,” a spokesperson said.

If Demands Turned Down, Foreign Firms to Flee Qatar


Jeddah- Experts and specialists in the economy field saw that Qatar is likely stepping towards a new phase and a dangerous one in its national economy that has been undergoing a trust issue with foreign investors during the past days.

They expected the losses to directly affect the Qatari economy in case Qatar refused demands of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Economists attributed the potential exit of some foreign firms to the concerns over political conditions in Doha especially after several western countries called on Qatar to stop financing terrorism in addition to the political and economic boycotting of Doha by neighboring countries.

Economist Dr. Saleh Altayyar said that Qatar lost in 2016 QAR27 billion (around USD7.42 billion) of foreign investments that had quit the local market, basically European and American firms for reasons of absence of security and safe infrastructure – these concerns are increasing on a daily basis after it has become clear that Qatar is supporting terrorism in the region.

Further, specialist in banking field Marwan Alsharif said that the Qatari economy has boosted with the surge of foreign investments after announcing that Qatar will host World Cup 2022.

However, during the coming days, many companies will consider a safe quit from the Qatari market in case Doha did not approve demands of boycotting states.

This exit might have a high price and might lead to huge losses including paying off loans and compensating workers of these companies.

Qatar to Increase Gas Production by 30% Amid Arab Crisis


London– Qatar is planning to increase its liquefied natural gas (LNG) production capacity by 30 percent to 100 million tons from 77 million tons per year, Qatar Petroleum’s CEO Saad al-Kaabi announced.

During a press conference, Kaabi said that the new additional volumes will be secured by doubling the size of the new gas project in the southern sector of the North Field, which Qatar Petroleum had announced last April, adding that the project will be complete within five to seven years. This will increase Qatar’s production to six million barrels per day.

“We have decided that the best option would be to double the size of the project to 4 billion cubic feet of gas per day… This project will strengthen our position as the world’s largest LNG producer and exporter,” Kaabi told the press.

Kaabi hoped the development expansion would happen through a joint venture with an international company but that Doha could go it alone if necessary.

“Qatar Petroleum will continue working…If some companies decide they don’t want to work with QP that’s their choice. We will find other foreign companies to work with,” he said.

Kaabi reiterated that the company does not plan to cut the pipeline that delivers gas to the UAE despite the crisis.

“Qatar Petroleum will not be affected by the siege,” he told reporters in Doha, adding: “The siege we have today is a force majeure and we could close the gas pipeline to the UAE.”

“But if we cut the gas, it does great harm to the UAE and the people of the UAE, who are considered like brothers … we decided not to cut the gas now,” he stated.

In April, Qatar lifted a self-imposed ban on development of the North Field which it shares with Iran, the world’s biggest natural gas field, and announced a new project to develop its southern section.

On Monday Iran signed a deal with Total to develop its South Pars Phase 11 project, the first major Western energy investment in the country since the lifting of sanctions.

Doha Anticipates Outcome of Quartet Meeting by Escalating Rhetoric


Dammam, Cairo– Few hours before the expected meeting between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to study the Qatari response to the list of 13 demands, Doha has escalated its rhetoric,the affirming that the demands were impossible to meet.

Kuna news agency reported that Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah’s envoy, Khaled Youssef al-Fulaij, has delivered a “response letter” to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, without elaborating on the content of the letter.

The Kuwaiti emir met on Tuesday with Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah to discuss efforts to resolve the crisis with Qatar.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani announced Tuesday that the demands made by the four Arab nations were impossible to achieve.

During a joint news conference in Doha with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Al Thani said the list of demands “is unrealistic and is not actionable.”

He also stressed that any solution to the current crisis should be achieved through negotiations, reiterating that punishments imposed on Doha were illegal measures taken under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

The German minister, for his part, said his country had good relations with Qatar and with other GCC states, noting in this regard that Germany would not take any sides in the current dispute.

“We are working with all GCC state-members for the region’s stability and security,” Gabriel said.

On the eve of the Arab ministerial meeting in Cairo, between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to discuss the crisis with Qatar, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit reiterated his support to the Kuwaiti mediation and expressed his readiness to deploy efforts in this context if the concerned parties desire so.

Abul Gheit’s comments came following his meeting in Rome on Tuesday with Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Angelino Alfano.

The secretary general’s spokesperson, Minister Delegate Mahmoud Afifi, said that the two officials have exchanged views on current crises and latest developments in the Middle East.