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Gulf States News - Issue 1066 - 20/09/2018

Gulf rivals grapple with US defence plans amid differing approaches to Iran

Ameeting of regional defence chiefs in Kuwait on 12-13 September was a rare occasion when senior Qatari officials found themselves around a table with their erstwhile allies from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with the more neutral Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members, Kuwait and Oman. The event highlighted the aim of the Trump administration and hawkish GCC leaders to articulate a common front, most notably against Iran at a time when US sanctions are posing a major threat to its centrist President Hassan Rouhani. But that desire for unity is proving hard to achieve.

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African Energy - Issue 376 - 13/09/2018

Equatorial Guinea lining up strategic partner for Gas Megahub

Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons plans to announce the appointment of a strategic partner for its Gas Megahub project by October. Mines and hydrocarbons minister Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima told African Energy that the strategic partner would start work on the project by year-end or early in 2019. He said the ministry had been working with Marathon Oil Corporation and Noble Energy on arrangements to backfill gas for the EGLNG liquefied natural gas plant as the first phase of the project to replace declining production from the Alba field (AE 369/1).

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Gulf States News - Issue 1065 - 06/09/2018

Support for Palestinians becomes another theatre for GCC rivalries, Trump caprices

The United States’ decision to withdraw its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was intended by President Donald Trump to add to pressure on the Palestinian National Authority (PA) to buy into his administration’s ‘ultimate deal’ to reach a very Israel-friendly accommodation on decades of conflict in the region. Trump’s 31 August decision may also have been intended to add to pressure on other donors to pay more – Germany and Japan are already among those to commit new funds to UNRWA. These developments represent an opportunity for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to project their power, while also threating to further exacerbate their differences.

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African Energy - Issue 375 - 30/08/2018

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam: from national treasure to political football

In his first news conference on 25 August, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed significant problems with the 6.45GW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) on the Blue Nile River. But rather than address the lengthy ongoing spat with Cairo over the $4bn project, or chief engineer Semegnew Bekele’s death in central Addis Ababa in a mysterious 26 July shooting, Abiy’s comments shed more light on a distinctly domestic dispute.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1064 - 02/08/2018

Salman emerges into Neom world as Saudi reforms progress with mixed results

With the summer heat in full force, King Salman Bin Abdelaziz opted for an unusual place to take a break: the yet-to-be-built city of Neom in the kingdom’s north-west corner, abutting Egypt and Jordan, is his chosen destination. Eschewing his usual break in Tangier, Morocco, Salman arrived at the site on 30 July to “spend some time in rest and recreation”, the official statement said. The monarch chaired a session of the cabinet the following day, providing symbolic confirmation of Neom’s incorporation into the new Saudi Arabia being crafted by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and his teams of advisors.

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African Energy - Issue 374 - 26/07/2018

Zambia cost-of-service study faces obstruction and delay

Zesco and senior officials are determined to press ahead with tariff increases despite the stalling of a cost-of-service study that was intended to form the basis of a new multiyear tariff determination. Negotiations have been under way since last year with large consumers, mostly mines, which are still in the process of agreeing an interim tariff.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1063 - 20/07/2018

UAE continues its proxy conflict against Qatar in Libya

The standoff between Qatar and its GCC-3 rivals Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE seems intractable more than a year after the embargo began, with new fronts in the dispute steadily opening up in other nearby regions. The battle for diplomatic influence and control of strategic assets in the Horn of Africa – enlivened by the UAE’s desire for military bases close to the Yemen conflict (GSN 1,055/6) – has been one notable arena. Libya has been a theatre of activity for Gulf and other regional players, notably Turkey, since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the late dictator Muammar Qadhafi. Recent manoeuvres involving Qatar and the UAE fit into what is becoming a familiar pattern.

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African Energy - Issue 373 - 12/07/2018

Shadow of debt has not yet deterred Zambia’s investors

An announcement by finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe on 6 July that the government had completed a three-week investigation into its debt sustainability and “we know what debt we have and also we have shared the facts and figures with the [International Monetary Fund] IMF” illustrates how perilous its debt situation has become. A combination of inept governance and ugly politics means that President Edgar Lungu’s administration has lost credibility to the point that investors are sceptical of both its figures – the government claims to have $9.3bn of external debt – and its ability to get control of its finances.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1062 - 05/07/2018

Northern Emirates at play as Abu Dhabi flexes its centralising muscle

Events over last month have highlighted the strains being created by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces deputy supreme commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ)’s assertive political leadership of the United Arab Emirates, where he is seen as the most powerful political player, with dominant political influence in the smaller less powerful emirates. This has been reflected in British newspapers reports of the defection to Qatar of Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamad Al-Sharqi. The second son of Fujairah Ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al-Sharqi apparently fled to Doha having taken refuge in a hotel on Park Lane, London; reports said he feared for his safety when it became apparent that MBZ was pressurising his father to change the line of succession in a family where hand-overs of rule have traditionally gone smoothly.

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African Energy - Issue 372 - 28/06/2018

Turmoil in Libya’s oil crescent threatens new blockade

The deal between the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Cyrenaica-based Libyan National Army (LNA) that has ensured steady oil production of around 1m b/d for the past two years has broken down, threatening a new extended blockade of oil exports, the further destabilisation of the critically weak economy and possibly the opening of a new phase in Libya’s lengthy civil war.

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