UAE, Saudi Leaders Meet After Public Spat On Oil Policy

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) receiving Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Emirati Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed, at the King Khaled International airport in the capital Riyadh, on July 19, 2020. (Photo by BANDAR AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP)

 

The de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met in Riyadh on Monday, emphasising the ties between the neighbours after a public row over oil policy.

“My brother Mohammed bin Salman and I discussed ways to further deepen the fraternal bond and strategic cooperation between our nations,” Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said after talks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The partnership between the UAE and Saudi Arabia continues to be strong and prosperous,” he tweeted.

The pair have long been seen as the region’s power couple, known by their initials MBZ and MBS. But a lack of joint appearances of late had triggered speculation that the relationship had cooled.

A dispute earlier this month over a proposed deal by the OPEC+ alliance of oil-producing countries burst into the open, exposing the steadily diverging paths of the allies.

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Economic rivalry is at the heart of the feud, as the Gulf states try to cash in on their vast oil reserves as they face the beginning of the end of the oil era.

The UAE had criticised the proposal as “unjust” in a rare challenge to Saudi Arabia, the world’s number-one oil exporter.

However, the 23-member OPEC+ reached a compromise on Sunday, agreeing to continue to boost output modestly from August.

Saudi state media said that Prince Mohammed had received the Emirati leader at the airport on his arrival.

“During the meeting, they reviewed deep-rooted fraternal relations between the two countries and aspects of bilateral cooperation and ways to support and develop it in various fields,” the Saudi state news agency SPA said.

AFP

UAE Opens Israel Embassy After Normalisation Deal

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (3rd R) and Emirati Ambassador to Israel Mohamed al-Khaja (2nd R) pose at the new UAE embassy in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. – The United Arab Emirates opened its embassy in Israel, housed in Tel Aviv’s new stock exchange building, in the latest step solidifying ties after a US-brokered normalisation deal last year. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

The United Arab Emirates opened an embassy in Israel Wednesday, housed in Tel Aviv’s new stock exchange building, in the latest normalisation move under a deal brokered by Washington last year.

The venue in the heart of Israel’s financial district highlighted the central role economic cooperation has played since the UAE became only the third majority-Arab country to recognise the Jewish state.

At the ceremony, attended by new Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Emirati ambassador Mohamed al-Khaja called the embassy opening “an important milestone in the growing relationship between our two countries”.

“The UAE and Israel are both innovative nations, we can harness this creativity to work towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for our countries and our region,” he said.

Herzog called for the “historic agreement” with the UAE to be “extended to other nations seeking peace with Israel.”

Israel and the UAE have signed a raft of deals — ranging from tourism to aviation to financial services — since normalising ties as part of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by former US president Donald Trump’s administration.

Wednesday’s ceremony, held in the lobby of the stock exchange building two floors below the embassy, came after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made a landmark visit to the UAE last month, opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai.

The Palestinians were outraged by the UAE’s decision to establish ties with Israel, which broke with decades of Arab consensus that there should be no normalisation of ties without a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Following the UAE deal, Israel normalised relations with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, accords that also sparked Palestinian protests.

But Israel and UAE have sought to emphasise the economic dividend offered by normalisation.

Lapid told Emirati media last month that bilateral trade has reached over $675.22 million since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

Israel’s spate of normalisation deals were agreed under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid was an architect of the coalition that ousted Netanyahu last month, but has, along with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, vowed to keep up Netanyahu’s policy of pursuing deeper ties in the Arab world.

AFP

Saudi Suspends UAE Flights Due To COVID-19 Variant

In this file photo taken on December 9, 2020, a Boeing 737 MAX of Brazilian airline Gol lands at Salgado Filho airport in Porto Alegre, Brazil. SILVIO AVILA / AFP
File Photo. SILVIO AVILA / AFP

 

Saudi Arabia has suspended flights to three countries, including the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, to protect against a coronavirus variant, the interior ministry said Saturday.

The move comes seven weeks after the oil-rich kingdom permitted fully immunised citizens to travel abroad, after a ban on foreign trips that lasted more than a year.

The UAE, and especially Dubai, is a key leisure destination for Saudis.

Flights to and from the UAE, alongside those to Ethiopia and Vietnam, will be suspended from Sunday, an interior ministry official said, quoted by the state news agency SPA.

Saudi citizens and residents returning from these countries will be required to quarantine for 14 days, it added.

Citizens would be banned “from travelling directly or indirectly, without obtaining prior permission from… authorities”.

The decision was taken due to “the spread of a new mutated strain of the (Covid-19) virus”, it added, without explicitly mentioning the increasingly globally emergent Delta variant.

The variant, first detected in India and now present in at least 85 countries, is the most contagious of any Covid-19 variant yet identified.

The UAE announced last week it had recorded cases of the Delta variant and it has suspended flights to and from India.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has put major limits on the annual hajj pilgrimage. It has officially recorded more than 490,000 cases of coronavirus, including nearly 7,850 deaths.

The oil-rich Gulf state is home to a large expat workforce from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

AFP

Gift Solomon: Nigerian Fake Employment Victim Becomes Food Delivery Star In Dubai

 

Nigerian, Gift Solomon is the only female delivery rider in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The 27-year-old is being celebrated in the United Arab Emirates as the first female to take on the male-dominated food delivery rider job, an add-on to her role as an assistant manager at Freedom Pizza in Dubai.

Born and raised in Ologbo, Edo state, the native of Ondo state is the fourth of six children.

Her family’s financial constraints pushed her to abandon her pursuit of a Degree in Business Administration, at the National Open University (NOUN) in Nigeria in search for greener pastures.

“There are some certain things that that is tagged that ladies cannot do, but then that doesn’t mean the law doesn’t allow people to do it, it’s just because ladies are not coming out to do the stuff,” she said in an interview with Channels TV’s Dubai correspondent, Mayowa Adegoke

“My parents really struggled a lot. I and my siblings get the best (they could offer) which I as a person, I am really thankful for because, without my family (my parents), I won’t be here”, says Gift, who first arrived in Dubai in 2016.

Gift left Nigeria to work in Dubai after paying a Nigerian employment agent the sum of N450,000 to secure a job that never came.

After she eventually made it to Dubai, another agent, a Pakistani she met in the tourist city, collected 2,500 AED to get her employed. Six months later, Gift’s friend who works at Freedom Pizza encouraged her to attend a walk-in-interview.

“When I came, I was in Dubai for about six months, there was no job. Trust me, the six months were like the worst months of my life because I had to really had to struggle considering the cost of living; It’s on the high side.”

Going back home was not an option she was ready to take. I wasn’t ready to give up,” she said.

“I couldn’t ask my parents (for money) because I told them I already have a job”.

Her determination has now paid off. From working as a phone operator in 2016, Gift rose to the position of the assistant manager just last year, when her ambition took this latest turn. She now takes pride in contributing to a new narrative within the UAE’s food delivery industry.

“There are some people who think it’s not accurate for me to be a rider… being a rider is not something I was forced into (it’s what I want to do). I know I can do it and I’m doing it, to set an example for people”

Gift hopes her story can serve as an inspiration and encouragement to other Nigerian youth to always embrace hard work regardless of their circumstances.

Her greatest wish is to see more women taking on daring opportunities as she herself continues to effortlessly break gender stereotypes one delivery at a time.

UAE To Allow Full Foreign Ownership Of Firms

FILES: (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

 

The United Arab Emirates announced Wednesday it will lift a cap on non-local ownership and allow full foreign control of business ventures from June 1,

The reform, originally flagged in 2019, will make it easier to do business in the Gulf state and encourage investment, the economy ministry said.

“The amended Commercial Companies Law aims at boosting the country’s competitive edge and is a part of UAE government efforts to facilitate doing business,” said Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri.

The decision abolishes a longstanding law that limits foreign ownership to just 49 percent.

To dodge the limit, some of the seven emirates that make up the UAE — including Dubai — have for years established free trade zones where foreigners can own up to 100 percent of their business.

The UAE’s economy is the second-largest in the Arab world, behind Saudi Arabia.

It counts as the most diversified, particularly thanks to Dubai which gains 95 percent of its income from outside the oil industry.

The capital Abu Dhabi sits on the majority of the UAE’s vast oil reserves.

The country ranks 16th in the World Bank’s index on the ease of doing business.

The decision opens up 13 major economic sectors to unrestricted foreign investment, including renewable energy, agriculture, transport and e-commerce.

In 2019, the UAE was the top destination for foreign direct investment in the Arab world, attracting nearly $13.8 billion, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

AFP

UAE To Send Rover To Moon In 2022

 

Lunar exploration firm iSpace said Wednesday it will transport a United Arab Emirates unmanned rover to the Moon next year, as the Gulf state seeks to expand its space sector. 

The UAE — made up of seven emirates including the capital Abu Dhabi and freewheeling Dubai — announced in September 2020 that it planned to launch the “Rashid” rover by 2024.

The rover “will be transported to the Moon on iSpace’s lunar lander” during a mission in 2022, the Japanese company said in a statement.

iSpace “will deliver the Emirates lunar mission’s ‘Rashid’ rover to the Moon, provide wired communication and power during the cruise phase, and engage in wireless communication on the lunar surface”.

The UAE is a newcomer to the world of space exploration but is quickly making its mark.

In September 2019, the oil-rich country sent the first Emirati into space as part of a three-member crew that blasted off on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan for an eight-day mission.

Then in February, its “Hope” probe successfully entered Mars’ orbit on a journey to reveal the secrets of Martian weather, making history as the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

iSpace, which was founded in 2010, will use Elon Musk’s SpaceX (Falcon 9) rocket for its first mission to launch a lander next year — set to blast off from Florida in the United States.

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has said that the Emirati-made rover will cover “areas not yet reached in previous exploration missions”.

It is part of the country’s strategy to build new knowledge-based and scientific capabilities, he added.

The project marks another first for the UAE, making it the first trip to the Moon by an Arab country.

The Dubai Media Office has said that the 10-kilogramme (22-pound) rover will be an integral part of efforts to build the first settlement on Mars in 2117 — one of the UAE’s most ambitious plans.

-AFP

Top UN Court Throws Out Qatar Blockade Case Against UAE

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The UN’s top court on Thursday rejected a case brought by Qatar accusing the United Arab Emirates of discrimination during a blockade of Doha, which has since been lifted.

Qatar filed the case in 2018, a year after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut transport links over claims the gas-rich nation backed Islamists and was too close to Iran.

Doha said the UAE’s actions had breached the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), a UN treaty.

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But the International Court of Justice said it “upholds the first preliminary objection raised by the UAE” that racial discrimination did not include nationality in this case.

“The court finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by the state of Qatar,” ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said in The Hague.

Qatar’s rivals agreed to lift the restrictions at a summit in early January and the UAE reopened its borders to Qatar shortly afterwards.

Dubai Cuts 2021 Budget As Pandemic Impacts Economy

A picture taken on March 28, 2020 shows a deserted street in the Emirate city of Dubai amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. KARIM SAHIB / AFP

 

Dubai said Sunday it expects to cut its budget to $15.5 billion in 2021 after its economy was impacted by a plunge in tourism and other sectors amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The emirate, one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates, had posted a record $18.1 billion budget for 2020.

“The newly-announced budget takes into account the exceptional economic conditions of the fiscal year 2020 and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy,” said a statement by the Dubai Media Office.

Dubai foresees a deficit for the fifth year in a row, of $1.3 billion in 2021. In 2019, it had forecast a $700 million deficit for this year.

The emirate, which depends heavily on tourism and retail services, closed its border for several months due to the pandemic, resulting in a 10.8 percent GDP plunge in the first half of the year.

According to government estimates published earlier this week, the economy will likely contract 6.2 percent this year but is expected to see four percent growth in 2021.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: EU Begins Vaccinations To End Pandemic

The new budget “confirms Dubai’s ability to deal with the crisis, restore the pace of economic growth, strengthen social benefits and essential services,” the media office said.

The government was counting on the six-month Dubai Expo 2020 global trade fair — which was scheduled for October but postponed by one year — to attract millions of visitors.

Tourism has long been an economic mainstay of Dubai, which welcomed more than 16 million visitors last year. Before the pandemic, the aim was to reach 20 million this year.

Dubai is renowned for its skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, but its key property sector has been hit since 2014 by lower oil prices.

 

Qatar Signals Progress To Resolve Gulf Crisis

 

 

Qatar’s foreign minister said on Friday that there had been some progress to resolve the Gulf crisis which has pitted a regional group of nations against his country.

Saudi led its allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt — to cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of backing radical Islamist movements and Iran, charges Doha denies.

They subsequently forced out Qataris residing in their countries, closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft, and sealed their borders and ports, separating some mixed-nationality families.

“We have achieved certain progress at a certain point of time more than a year ago, and then things have slowed,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at the Mediterranean Dialogues forum in Rome.

“Right now, there are some movements that we hope will put an end (to) this crisis,” he said without giving details.

“We believe that Gulf unity is very important for the security of the region. This needless crisis needs to end based on mutual respect.”

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is reported to have raised the Gulf crisis and pushed for progress towards ending the spat during a visit to Qatar Wednesday.

Few details have been made public about Kushner’s trip, which could have been his last chance to press diplomatic issues in the region that has been a focal point for the outgoing Trump administration.

Saudi Arabia’s closure of its airspace has forced Qatar Airways aircraft to fly over Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival and long-time adversary of Washington, paying significant overflight fees to Tehran in the process.

The New York Times has reported that Qatar pays $100 million annually to fly over the Islamic republic, citing diplomatic sources.

US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in November that allowing Qatari planes to fly over Saudi Arabia via an “air bridge” was a priority for the outgoing Trump administration.

Qatar has repeatedly said it is open to talks without preconditions, though has not signalled publicly it would compromise on the 13 demands of the boycotting countries.

Past mediation efforts led by Kuwait have yielded no results.

-AFP

UAE To Grant Infectious Disease Experts, Others ‘Golden’ 10-Year Residence Visa

A picture taken on January 8, 2018 shows the skyline of Dubai with the Burj al-Arab in the foreground and Burj Khalifa (L) in the background.
GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

 

The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday it will grant all doctors and infectious disease experts living in the country a 10-year visa, who are helping to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreigners in the UAE, like most Gulf countries, are generally only given limited residence visas tied to their current employment, and long-term residency is difficult to obtain.

But to attract wealthy business people and highly skilled workers, the UAE last year launched the “Golden” 10-year visa programme, which is now being expanded.

Those eligible include holders of doctorate degrees, medical doctors, and computer, electronics, programming, electrical and biotechnology engineers, tweeted Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

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“We are keen to embrace talent that drives future development and this is only the beginning,” said Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the ruler of Dubai, which has the most diversified economy in the Gulf.

Students from accredited universities who are getting top grades could also qualify, he said, along with those holding specialised degrees in artificial intelligence, big data and epidemiology.

The scheme last year drew in some 6,800 investors, in a windfall worth $27 billion for the economy.

Foreigners account for 90 per cent of the population of some 10 million in the oil-rich UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy.

The country has so far recorded more than 150,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 530 deaths.

A months-long lockdown and the impact on tourism and business has done serious damage to the economy, which was already slumping in recent years due to low oil prices.

The “Golden Visa” was the first such scheme in the Gulf, which keeps tight control on residency.

Similar programmes have been launched in other countries that seek to diversify their economies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Riyadh said in June 2019 that it will offer permanent residency for 800,000 riyals ($213,000) and a one-year renewable residency costing 100,000 riyals ($27,000), allowing expats to do business and buy property without a Saudi sponsor.

Meanwhile, Doha has recently flung open its property market to foreigners, with a scheme giving those purchasing homes or stores the right to longer-term or permanent residency permits.

AFP

UAE To Begin Issuance Of Visa To Nigerians From October 8 — FG

A file photo of the Minister of Aviation. Photo: [email protected]

 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed that it would begin the issuance of visas to Nigerians from Thursday, October 8, 2020.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced this on Tuesday.

“UAE confirmed that they will begin issuance of Visas from the 8th of October,  2020. Travelers to have a return ticket, hotel booking, negative PCR result & Health insurance (similar to Schengen requirement). Health insurance can be paid through travel agents/airline,” the Minister tweeted.

 

Sirika had earlier on September 30 announced that the UAE had written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians, a development that made the Federal Government lift the ban it had earlier placed on Emirates Airlines.

“UAE has written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians, consequently decision has been reached to allow Emirates to fly into Nigeria,” the minister had tweeted.

Fatah, Hamas Say Deal Reached On Palestinian Elections

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2018 Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas gestures while speaking during a joint press conference with the visiting Bulgarian president at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. 
ABBAS MOMANI / AFP

 

Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and their rivals Fatah in the occupied West Bank agreed Thursday to hold the first Palestinian elections since 2006, united by their opposition to Arab-Israeli normalisation deals.

Polls will be scheduled within six months under a deal reached between Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh, officials from both sides told AFP.

“We have agreed to first hold legislative elections, then presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority, and finally the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO),” said Jibril Rajub, a senior Fatah official.

The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide and the following year the Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip in a near-civil war between the two factions.

Saleh al-Arouri, a top Hamas official, said the deal was reached during meetings held in Turkey.

“This time we reached a real consensus,” he said, speaking to AFP by phone from Istanbul.

“Divisions have damaged our national cause and we are working to end that,” he added.

The intra-Palestinian reconciliation attempts took on greater urgency after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalised relations with Israel, becoming only the third and fourth Arab nations to do so.

Egypt and Jordan respectively signed peace deals with the Jewish state in 1979 and 1994.

– ‘Long overdue’ –

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the announcement to convene new elections, saying it was a “long overdue” move to “revitalise and unify” Palestinian ranks.

“The promising developments emerging from talks between Fatah and Hamas are welcome news for the Palestinian people,” Ashrawi said in a statement.

“Ending the ongoing rift in the political system is a pressing priority that is long overdue.”

Ashrawi called on Palestinian factions “to include women and youth in advanced positions in their electoral tickets”.

She also urged the international community to “ensure that Israel does not hamper or obstruct” the vote.

The 2006 Palestinians polls resulted in a brief unity government, but it soon collapsed and in 2007 bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two principal Palestinian factions.

Hamas has since ruled Gaza, while Fatah has run the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Numerous attempts at reconciliation, including a prisoner exchange agreement in 2012 and a short-lived coalition government two years later, have failed to close the rift.

Including PLO elections in the agreement paves the way for Hamas to join the organisation, which unites various Palestinian factions including Fatah.

The PLO signed the 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel, which have long since floundered.

Fatah has not said whether Abbas will seek re-election in the proposed polls.

The 84-year-old has been in office since the 2005 presidential election, when he won 62 percent of the vote.

According to a rare poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Research carried out earlier this year, Hamas’s Haniyeh would beat Abbas in a presidential election.

The Fatah leader has repeatedly pledged elections over the past decade, but hurdles remain in spite of the Hamas deal.

Enabling Palestinian residents of occupied east Jerusalem to vote will prove particularly challenging, as Israel controls the city and prevents Palestinian officials from working there.

The accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain — both inked at the White House on September 15 — broke with decades of Arab consensus that ties with the Jewish state should not be established until it has signed a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Turkey and Iran, both Muslim non-Arab nations, have been the most vociferous countries in opposing normalisation.

Ankara has “an ambition to lead” the Palestinian cause, pointing to “the hypocrisy of both Arab states and the West for not emphasising” the cause enough, according to Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s National Institute for Security Research.

AFP