Gulf in the News – December 11, 2013

Oman’s stand on Gulf Union ‘will not hurt key projects’

Source: Arab News (Read full story)

Oman’s reluctance to join the proposed GCC Union will not affect the joint economic projects between the six Gulf states, says a Gulf official. His remarks follows a recent statement by the Omani Foreign Minister.
The official said the details of a project to create a GCC Clearing Organization (financial organization for a unified financial clearing of GCC member countries) will be discussed soon by the committee of the financial and banking sector of the Federation of Gulf Chambers of Commerce.  Abdullah Al-Shibli, GCC assistant secretary general for economic affairs at the General Secretariat of GCC, said a meeting will be held between the secretariat, represented by the economic affairs department and the financial sector of the Federation of Gulf Chambers to discuss the final details of the project to create a GCC Clearing Organization.

US ‘not expecting a Gulf union soon’

Source: The National (Read full story)

Although America’s top defence official has encouraged more coordination among the country’s Gulf allies, it is widely believed in Washington that closer security cooperation among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will not occur soon, as differences persist over how to respond to a possible long-term deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.  The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, was in Doha yesterday for talks with Qatari officials, winding up a regional tour that included Manama and Riyadh and was aimed at reassuring allies that the US administration has no intention of abandoning them, even as it turns more attention to Asia and seeks to build on the interim accord reached between Tehran and major international powers last month.

Pentagon chief affirms Qatar-US defence ties

Source: Gulf Times (Read full story)

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel reaffirmed US military ties with Qatar yesterday, during a regional tour aimed at shoring up Gulf alliances amid disagreements over policy on Iran and Syria.  Hagel met HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and the Minister of State for Defence, HE Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, in Doha where they renewed a defence agreement. … At their meeting, Hagel and Attiyah renewed the United States-Qatar Defence Co-operation Agreement which “governs the interactions … including training, exercises and other co-operative activities,” said a statement by assistant press secretary Carl Woog. “The agreement promotes co-operation and is a testament to the longstanding security partnership enjoyed by the United States and Qatar,” said the statement.

Oman won’t benefit by abstaining from proposed union, but it has the right to take own decisions

Source: The National (Read full story)

Oman’s foreign minister, Youssef bin Alawi, surprised the audience earlier this week at the GCC interior ministers’ conference in Manama when he declared that his country was against the Saudi-proposed move towards unity among Gulf nations.  “Normally, there are two antipodes at the Gulf Cooperation Council: an extremely loud Qatar and an extremely quiet Oman. Despite sharp contrasts between them, the council was able to assimilate them and, throughout the years, Oman was the most exemplary of all six members in view of its sustained relationships with almost all members,” [columnist Abdelrahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat] noted. “As for the proposed Gulf union, I don’t believe it warrants such blunt dismissal,” the writer added. “The proposal has been on the table for about two years and member states are entitled to accept it, reject it or at least wish for it at their discretion.”

Amir opens Gulf summit, calls to end Syria war

Source: Kuwaits Times (Read full story)

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah opened an annual summit of wealthy Gulf states yesterday with a call for an end to the “human catastrophe” in Syria. Sheikh Sabah, who gave a share of the spotlight at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit to the head of Syria’s main opposition bloc, also condemned the United Nations for failing to halt the 33-month conflict. “The human catastrophe is still ongoing in Syria which calls on us to double efforts and work with the international community, especially the UN Security Council which has remained unable to put an end to this human tragedy,” said the Amir.

GCC bonds can expect to benefit from sustained strong macroeconomic backdrop

Source: The National (Read full story)

The outperformance of GCC countries last month – in sukuk as well as in equities – was aided by a number of positive events, including the decision to select Dubai as the site for the World Expo 2020. That decision crowns a strong year for Dubai and the UAE at large. Dubai’s GDP growth accelerated to a year-on-year rate of 4.9 per cent in the first half of this year, while the purchasing-manager index (PMI) for the UAE (56.3 in October) points to continued momentum.  Sukuk issuance in GCC countries picked up considerably last month as the market stabilised. Gems Education, a Dubai-based school operator with facilities across several emerging and developed markets, launched a US$200 million debut hybrid subordinated sukuk with a 12 per cent profit rate. The issue resulted in an oversubscribed book and this unrated sukuk traded well in the secondary market.