Tag Archive: Atmariar Gulf


2017-09-05

DOHA – Qatar said Tuesday that a new $7.4 billion port would help to “break the shackles” of a three-month-old boycott of the gas-rich emirate by Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.

The Hamad Port, which began operating in December, is a major hub for imports to Qatar, hit by a land and air embargo by some of its most powerful neighbors.

“This is a gateway to break the shackles imposed on Qatar,” transport minister Jassim bin Saif Al-Sulaiti said in a speech during an inauguration ceremony for the port held Tuesday.

“Nothing can stop us and our ambition,” he added.

In a relatively rare public appearance since the onset of the crisis, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attended the inauguration but did not speak.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of bankrolling Islamist extremist groups and having close ties to Shiite Iran.

Qatar denies the charges.

Tuesday’s hour-long ceremony, broadcast live on Qatari television stations, included a band, acrobats and fireworks.

The ostentatious display was a clear signal of defiance to Qatar’s neighbors after their suspension of economic and diplomatic relations with Doha.

Hamad will be Qatar’s largest container port and will provide commercial access to some 150 countries, according to official reports.

These include links to regional ports in Oman and Kuwait, and more distant ports of call from Turkey to India and Pakistan.

Qatar previously relied on neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for food imports.

But as part of the sanctions, Saudi Arabia sealed its land border with Qatar.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran have since stepped in to help meet Qatar’s food needs.

The Hamad Port is located on Qatar’s south eastern coast, around an hour’s drive from Doha.

It has a capacity of 1.7 million tonnes of general freight and one million tonnes of grain, according to Mwani Qatar, the country’s port management company.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84693.

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August 15, 2017

Saudi Arabia and Iraq plan to open the Arar border crossing for trade for the first time since 1990 when it was closed after the countries cut ties following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Saudi local media reported on Tuesday.

Saudi and Iraqi officials toured the site on Monday and spoke with Iraqi religious pilgrims, who for the past 27 years had access to the crossing only once annually during the Hajj season, Saudi sources reported.

The governor of Iraq’s southwestern Anbar province, whose staff was on hand for the ceremonies, said the Iraqi government had deployed troops to protect the desert route leading to Arar and called its opening a “significant move” to boost ties.

“This is a great start for further future cooperation between Iraq and Saudia Arabia,” said Sohaib al-Rawi.

The announcement follows a decision by the Saudi cabinet on Monday to establish a joint trade commission with Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both wooing their northern neighbor in an effort to halt the growing regional influence of arch-foe Iran.

The Sunni-led Arab Gulf countries have hosted influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for talks with their crown princes in recent weeks, rare visits after years of troubled relations.

Sadr’s office said his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman resulted in an agreement for Saudi Arabia to donate $10 million in aid to the Iraqi government and study possible investments in Shi’ite regions of southern Iraq.

The opening of border crossings for trade was also on a list of goals for the talks published by Sadr’s office.

Sadr commands a large following among the urban poor of Baghdad and southern Iraq and is one of few Iraqi Shi’ite leaders to keep some distance from Tehran.

The Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement extends back to 2015 when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad following a 25-year break.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad in February, and the two countries announced in June they would set up a coordination council to upgrade ties.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170815-saudi-arabia-and-iraq-to-re-open-border-crossing-after-27-years/.

2017-09-06

ABU DHABI – The Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open its doors to the public in November, bringing to the Gulf Mesopotamian artifacts and post-impressionist masterpieces in the first Louvre-branded museum outside of Paris.

Housing 600 works of art, including 300 loaned by 13 French museums for the inaugural year, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is described as the “first universal museum” in the Arab world.

“At a time when culture is under attack… this is our joint response,” French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said at a news conference Wednesday in Abu Dhabi to announce the November 11 opening date.

The museum has been a decade in the making and is opening five years behind schedule.

Among the works on loan to Abu Dhabi are Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere from the Louvre — which houses the world’s largest collection of art — and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait from the Musee d’Orsay.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel of France, the “museum city” is reminiscent of an Arab medina, enveloped by a part arabesque, part futuristic silvery dome that lets in the light in patterns mimicking leaves of the palm trees of the Gulf.

While the Louvre Abu Dhabi will not lack its Rodins and Gaugins, for some, the real heart of the museum is in its narration of ancient civilizations through artifacts acquired by the United Arab Emirates.

– ‘Complex, ambitious’ –

The planned opening comes a decade after France and the UAE agreed a 30-year partnership worth $1.1 billion under which many top French museums will loan art to Abu Dhabi.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend the inauguration of the museum, which had originally been scheduled to open in 2012.

The “complex, ambitious project”, in the words of museum director Manuel Rabate, has faced delays in funding and construction.

The decision to grant Abu Dhabi the rights to the Louvre name sparked heated debate in France with critics accusing the Louvre of “selling its soul” and questioning the emirate’s record on labor rights.

“Yes, it’s exceptional. Yes, this is the first time a project like this launches in the Middle East. But that’s what’s unique to this project,” Rabate told AFP in response to the critiques.

He sought to allay concerns about the transportation of the art and the conditions in which it will be stored, in a country where temperatures soar well above 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer.

“Their protection is vital to us and we have made sure we have the systems in place to protect them against the environmental conditions,” Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said.

“The museum’s galleries are operated by sophisticated climate controls for humidity, temperature and light and during installation, the works are in environmentally protected crates and cases to make sure they are not affected by outside conditions.”

Guarded by Emirati forces, in coordination with French experts, including civil defense and terrorism security forces, the art is protected by “state of the art security systems and procedures, in line with international standards,” said Mubarak.

– ‘Message of tolerance’ –

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of “a major cultural strategy” to promote the city as a patron of the arts in a region increasingly focused on soft power.

About five percent of the overall museum will be dedicated to contemporary and modern art. The rest focuses on telling the story of world histories and religions.

In the gallery of world religions, a sixth century Koran, a gothic Bible and a Yemeni Torah face each other, open to verses that give similar accounts.

“To send that message of tolerance is really important for our time,” said Mubarak.

A branch of the Guggenheim, still under development, and the Zayed Museum, the national museum named after the country’s founder, are located on the same island.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s opening comes as the UAE, which in April announced the establishment of a Soft Power Council, is locked in a diplomatic battle with neighboring Qatar, accused by its Gulf neighbors of supporting Islamist extremism.

The UAE will also host the global trade fair Expo 2020.

“We’re definitely not this closed-off society that’s putting a massive wall up,” said Mubarak.

“We (the UAE and France) have a goal that is exactly identical: we both want to tell the world how our history is connected. Through culture, the world can become a better place,” he added.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84696.

Moscow (Sputnik)

Sep 05, 2017

Life on Mars may still be light years away – but it clearly hasn’t stopped us from thinking ahead. Next year six space-suited and booted astronauts will head to the Dhofar desert in Oman in an attempt to simulate what life will be like on Mars.

According to scientists, the Dhofar desert is possibly the most realistic place on Earth that is as harsh and uninviting as the landscape of Mars.

The astronauts will take part in a lavish dress rehearsal for the first manned voyage to another planet as they attempt to retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo and the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger.

It is not the first time such an elaborate adventure has been staged in readiness for the real mission in later years. Teams have simulated identical missions in an open cast mine in southern Spain, the Sahara desert in Africa, as well as a glacier in the Alps.

“Every time we try to get bigger and better and closer to the real thing. We need to understand the capabilities and limitations of our equipment and what people need to do when they get there. This is the biggest mission we have ever done,” Gernot Gromer, president of the Austrian Space Forum, revealed.

When they head to Arabia next February the space crew will go armed with a drone, an inflatable hydroponic greenhouse, several robotic rovers as well as a host of other scientific equipment.

Although they will spend their time in complete isolation, their three week journey will be closely monitored by mission control, on this occasion, based in Austria. In order to make the event all the more realistic, any signal contact between them will be delayed by 10 minutes, just as there would be in real life.

“What we know about Mars has progressed massively in the past 15 years, and I strongly believe that the first human to walk on Mars is already born. We could see permanent human settlement on the Red Planet several generations from now, and they may not be happy eating canned food,” said Mr. Gromer.

A 50-strong army of support personnel – including Squadron Leader Bonnie Posselt, an RAF doctor who became Britain’s first trainee space medic last year – will be on hand throughout the mission. Some 60 researchers will also follow their every footsteps as they probe the 120 square mile test site looking for ‘alien’ DNA or, anything else they can find in the barren desert wastes.

In addition to the obvious inhospitable conditions beyond Earth, he explained, there are a number of less well known challenges to humans.

“The way our body processes food is different enough to matter a great deal. A person’s sense of taste changes in zero gravity. There are medical implications to different gravity effects. In our work we’re verifying whether the ideas and designs to survive on Mars work in practice, and the gaps between theory and practice that we observe range from trivial to serious matters.”

The astronauts are guaranteed to be put to the test during their mission, most notably temperatures will vary from 16 degrees and 27 Celsius, a far cry from anything Mars has to offer.

In many respects, however, the landscape in Oman will be similar to those expected on the red planet, thanks to its salt domes, sedimentary rocks and dried up riverbeds.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Life_on_Mars_Lets_Try_Oman_Desert_First_for_Space_Mission_999.html.

August 9, 2017

Dubai’s status as a financial hub for the region is increasingly coming under threat as one of Qatar’s major shipping and logistics firm relocates its regional trans-shipment hub from Dubai to Oman’s Sohar port.

With the Saudi led blockade of Qatar now entering its third month, Milaha Maritime and Logistics, which “delivers a comprehensive range of services to some of the region’s biggest players in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”, announced the move that may raise concerns in Dubai over its potential to remain the unrivaled economic hub of the region.

One of the measures taken by the blockading countries was to deny Qatar access to their ports. Typically, cargo for Qatar stopped at the UAE’s massive port in Jebel Ali, Dubai, or in Abu Dhabi, then got put on smaller boats heading to Doha. Following the blockade, international free trade zones like Jebel Ali were off-limits to Qatari companies. Hundreds of containers destined for Qatar were seized by the authorities in clear breach of the provisions and laws of the International Trade Organisation that safeguard the free flow of goods.

Oman was quick to announce its readiness to become the import/export hub of the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member was one of the countries that stood to benefit from the Saudi-led blockade after deciding to remain neutral and allowing Qatar-bound ships to use its ports. The country also launched one of its boldest projects; Bayan is the largest electronic system in the Sultanate that allows international traders to obtain government permits and licences quickly and efficiently.

An increasing number of companies have now turned to Oman, and that is likely to have a severe knock-on effect on Dubai. Analysts have warned that the economic embargo on Qatar could hurt Dubai’s status as a financial hub.

Industry analysts believe that both Kuwait and Oman will reap the benefit of trade transactions that used to take place in countries like the UAE. Qatar Petroleum chief Saad Al-Kaabi told Al Jazeera that, as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) producing up to 77 million tonnes each year, it had to move quickly to mitigate the impact of the blockade and secure alternative routes. While stressing that the blockade has made Qatar much stronger, Doha was in any case unlikely to return to using ports within the blockading countries that previously serviced its global exports.

On Monday, Qatar’s transport ministry said three new direct shipping lines are being opened with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan. These countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, are expected to benefit financially from doing trade with the countries affected by the boycott.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170809-qatar-shipping-company-moves-hub-from-uae-to-oman/.

2017-04-26

DHAKA – Bangladesh has approved a project to build hundreds of mosques with almost $1 billion from Saudi Arabia, an official said Wednesday, worrying minorities who fear they could be used to spread fundamentalist Islam.

The government plans to construct 560 mosques — one in every town in Bangladesh — as the secular administration woos Islamist groups before elections.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought the funds from Saudi Arabia, which will provide the lion’s share of the $1.07 billion cost, during a visit to the oil-rich state last year, said planning minister Mustofa Kamal.

The centers of worship — equipped with research facilities, libraries and cultural centers — would be a “model” for worshipers in the Muslim-majority country, said Shamim Afzal, head of the state-run Islamic Foundation.

“It is a perfect idea of spreading the true knowledge of Islam,” he said.

But minority groups are less certain, concerned the proliferation of Saudi-backed mosques could spread the ultra-conservative Sunni doctrine of Wahhabism practiced in the Gulf kingdom.

Bangladesh has suffered from a rise in extremism in recent years as the moderate Islam worshiped for generations has given way to a more conservative interpretation of the scriptures.

The government has ordered a crackdown on homegrown extremist outfits after a series of bloody attacks on secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities.

Rezaul Haq Chandpuri, from a federation representing Sufi Muslims who have been targeted for violence, said there was no justification for these new mosques.

“Saudi finance is a concern. They may use their money to promote Wahabism through these mosques,” he said, adding minorities would feel “helpless and insecure”.

But the scheme could also “help the government monitor hateful sermons”, a tough task in Bangladesh where it controls few of the 300,000 existing mosques, said leading secular activist Shahriar Kabir.

“I think the government should take control of all mosques across the country. That way, it can easily identify where extremism are being promoted,” he told AFP.

In a major concession to Islamist groups ahead of polls, Hasina this month announced her government would recognize degrees from hardline madrassas, paving the way for religious scholars to qualify for public service jobs.

She also supported conservative protesters railing against a symbolic statue of justice outside the Supreme Court which they deemed un-Islamic.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=82799.

June 30, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Qatar’s defense minister held talks with his Turkish counterpart on Friday as the Gulf nation’s feud with four other major Arab states deepens amid a sweeping list of demands to Doha, including the closure of a Turkish military base there.

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, discussed ways to resolve the dispute in a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said. Defense Ministry officials said Qatar’s Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah met with Turkey’s Fikri Isik in Ankara, but did not provide details.

Turkey is adamant to keep its base in the small Gulf Arab state and has sided with Qatar in the dispute, which saw Arab countries cut ties to Doha earlier this month, accusing it of supporting terror groups. Qatar denies the accusation.

In a sign of support, Turkey shipped supplies to Doha to help ease its isolation and swiftly ratified military agreements with Qatar, allowing the deployment of soldiers to its base. A contingent of 23 troops departed for Doha last week, joining some 90 soldiers already there.

Erdogan has rejected the four Arab nations’ demand for an end to Turkish troop presence in Doha, calling it “disrespectful” and saying that Turkey would not seek permission from others over its defense cooperation agreements.

Turkey insists its troop deployment to Qatar aims to enhance regional security and is not aimed against any specific country. The White House said Trump and Erdogan spoke about ways to overcome the crisis “while ensuring that all countries work to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology.”

“President Trump emphasized the importance of all our allies and partners increasing their efforts to fight terrorism and extremism in all its forms,” the White House statement added. Other demands presented to Qatar by the four nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — include shuttering the Al-Jazeera news network and curbing diplomatic ties to Iran.

Erdogan has said the demand for Al-Jazeera’s shutdown is an attempt to strip the network of its press freedom and urged rights groups to denounce the call. Qatar denies supporting extremism and considers the demands an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.

June 25, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, saying their sweeping list of ultimatums has threatened the small Gulf country’s sovereignty.

Speaking after Eid prayers in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the demand “disrespectful” and said Turkey would not seek permission from others when making its defense cooperation agreements.

“Demanding that Turkey pull its soldiers is unfortunately also disrespectful toward Turkey,” he said. He said Turkey would continue to support Qatar against the many sanctions it has faced since several Arab countries moved earlier this month to isolate the country for its alleged support of terrorism.

In a sign of support, the Turkish parliament swiftly ratified a 2014 agreement with Qatar earlier this month, allowing the deployment of troops to its base there. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday.

Erdogan said he made a similar offer to Saudi Arabia to set up a base there in the past but did not hear back from the king. Doha received a 13-point list from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain that included demands to shut down the media network Al-Jazeera and cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. The energy-rich country said it was reviewing the ultimatum but added it would not negotiate under siege.

Turkey’s president said his country “admires and embraces” Qatar’s attitude, while slamming the demands by arguing they contradict international law. “Here we see an attack against a state’s sovereignty rights,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan called the demand that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera an attempt to take away the network’s press freedom and urged rights groups to speak out against that.

July 11, 2017

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Qatar will continue to support development projects in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a Qatari envoy said Tuesday, defying a boycott by powerful Arab neighbors imposed in part over its support for the Islamic militant group.

Mohammed al-Amadi, the head of Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee, made his promise as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in the region pressing for an end to the Gulf crisis. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar last month, accusing the energy-rich sheikhdom of supporting Islamic extremists, including Hamas, across the region. Qatar denies the charges.

“My current visit is to emphasize to the Palestinian people that we are still here to continue projects and launch new ones,” al-Amadi said at a ceremony to sign a contract for building eight residential buildings. He stressed that the timing of the visit was “calculated.”

One of the main goals of the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar is to convince it to cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the historical parent of the militant Hamas group. Qatar has been the largest single donor to Gaza over the past five years, disbursing about $500 million for housing, reconstruction, infrastructure development, and health projects.

Al-Amadi stressed that his country doesn’t support Hamas, but the massive projects are widely seen as indirectly aiding the group. Qatar also hosts exiled Hamas leaders. Qatar notes that its aid to Gaza is coordinated with Israel, which controls most land crossings into the blockaded territory, and the rival government of President Mahmoud Abbas, who still claims authority over Gaza after losing control of the territory a decade ago.

Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. envoy who attended the ceremony, thanked Qatar for its role in alleviating the humanitarian crisis. His office released a report predicting a bleak future for Gaza, 10 years after the Hamas takeover and a subsequent blockade by Israel and Egypt. The countries say the restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza are needed to prevent Hamas from arming.

The U.N. had warned five years ago that Gaza would be “unliveable” by 2020 due to the deterioration of the economy and natural resources. Tuesday’s report says things have only gotten worse. “Today’s update shows that unfortunately things have speeded up and have deteriorated more quickly than expected,” Mladenov said.

August 2, 2017

Kuwait has started extensive contacts with the World Bank to prepare for hosting a donor conference for the reconstruction of the Iraqi areas that have been liberated from Daesh control, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah announced yesterday.

Speaking in an event that was held at the Iraqi embassy to celebrate the liberation of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, Al-Jarallah said that “there was no date set for the conference,” adding that “it is likely to be in the first quarter of next year [2018].”

“Kuwait has always stood by Iraq via the international coalition (fighting Daesh) and bilaterally,” the Kuwaiti minister noted.

Al-Jarallah pointed out that “there is coordination and harmony between Kuwait and Iraq to overcome any problems that may occur.” He also congratulated the Iraqi people on the recapture of Mosul from Daesh.

On 11 July, Kuwaiti Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, told the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, in a phone call that his country was ready to host an international conference on rebuilding the liberated areas in Iraq.

The World Bank had also welcomed the initiative, stressing that it would support the long-term reconstruction of the liberated areas in Iraq.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170802-kuwait-to-hold-international-conference-on-rebuilding-iraq/.