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Gulf States News - Issue 1074 - 07/02/2019

Riyadh draws line in the sand as MBS seeks to reinvigorate reform programme

Saudi officials are trying to put the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi behind them, with a new initiative to kick-start inward investment and a range of soft power initiatives. But while the stellar turn-out of sporting stars, entertainers and business leaders arriving in the kingdom suggests that – rather predictably – many supports for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS)’s Vision 2030 agenda see it is business as usual, Riyadh continues to struggle to address criticism of its record on human rights and financial abuses.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1073 - 24/01/2019

Omani clamp-down on property sales highlights tensions with neighbours

Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) owners of land and real estate in Oman have been given until November 2020 to sell up, under the terms of a little-noticed royal decree. Until now the prevailing rule among the six Gulf monarchies has been that the citizens of one GCC country are permitted to buy property in another. However, Royal Decree 29/2018 introduced a series of prohibitions on foreigners owning land and property in designated areas and ordered them to sell such property to Omanis.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1072 - 10/01/2019

Salman reshuffles in bid to protect MBS and shore up internal position

An unexpected reshuffle of senior officials on 27 December, along with the trial of 11 unnamed individuals for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has sent a clear signal that King Salman Bin Abdelaziz is determined to protect his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) from any fallout from the killing, while also trying to rebuild Saudi Arabia’s standing on the world stage.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1071 - 13/12/2018

Politics of disunity and animosity in the GCC reshapes the regional landscape

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit was again overshadowed by the crisis pitting Qatar against the GCC-3 of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (GSN 1,040/1). Qatar attended the 9 December summit – although Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani was one of three heads of state who stayed away from the annual meeting, this year held in Riyadh – but 18 months after the GCC-3’s boycott was launched against Doha it is becoming ever harder to paper over the cracks of regional disunity. There was no sign of any unexpected radical shift in key leaders’ thinking, leaving a consensus that the one-day summit had achieved nothing other than to entrench existing positions.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1070 - 29/11/2018

UAE tests its standing in the international arena with Hedges affair

Matthew Hedges’ release from a life sentence in the United Arab Emirates, following a presidential pardon on 26 November, came as a great relief to his family – led by his wife Daniela Tejeda – and to his many academic and other supporters. However, his ordeal has raised important questions about the state of bilateral relations between the UAE and United Kingdom, as well as concerns for the safety of academics, consultants, journalists and others working in the region, who often need to ask searching questions in the course of their work.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1069 - 15/11/2018

Winners and losers as Sheikh Tamim reshuffles Qatar’s top team

Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani reshuffled his 14-member cabinet, created a number of new government bodies and appointed new leaders at key state-run institutions, including the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar Petroleum (QP) and the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) in a string of 4 November decrees.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1068 - 01/11/2018

Qaboos is still capable of surprise as Israelis are drawn to ‘facilitation’ in Oman

Observers have become accustomed in recent years to using Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said’s public appearances at National Day festivities to assess the Omani leader’s health. This year, 18 November is likely to lead to a reassessment of his condition, four years after Qaboos began treatment for colon cancer in Germany; he only finally returned to Muscat in 2016, after a long period of recuperation. GSN has spoken to a number of senior officials who have had recent contact with the sultan: the consensus seems to be that Qaboos’ health has improved significantly since 2016. He has put on weight, his face is noticeably less gaunt and “the spark has returned to his eyes”, as one observer put it.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1067 - 18/10/2018

Autocratic tendencies test international opinion as Khashoggi affair explodes

Riyadh is still in crisis recovery mode as the regime triesto find a way to explain the disappearance and apparent murder of prominent critic Jamal Khashoggi, after his visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on 2 October. While Riyadh initially claimed Khashoggi – who in the past year had been a periodic columnist for the Washington Post – had left the building, it was unable to provide any evidence of that; Saudi spokesmen were unable to counter speculation that Khashoggi was brutally murdered by a team of Saudi agents that flew into Istanbul that day.

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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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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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