Gulf in the News – December 19, 2013

Saudi envoy: West’s policies on Syria and Iran dangerous gamble

Source: Arab News (Read full story)

Saudi Arabia is prepared to act on its own to safeguard security in the region, the Saudi ambassador to Britain has said in a commentary published in the New York Times.  Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf termed the West’s policies on Iran and Syria as a dangerous gamble. “We believe that many of the West’s policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East,” the ambassador wrote. “This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by,” he stated.  Citing Iran’s backing for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, he said “rather than challenging the Syrian and Iranian governments, some of our Western partners have refused to take much-needed action against them.

Iran, six world powers to resume nuclear talks

Source: Gulf Times (Read full story)

Iran and six world powers will resume talks in Geneva today about how to implement a landmark nuclear agreement, a week after Tehran broke off the discussions in anger at an expanding US sanctions blacklist.  Under the November 24 interim accord, Iran will curb its disputed nuclear programme in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions that are damaging its oil-dependent economy. The technical talks – expected to involve nuclear as well as sanctions experts – are meant to translate the political deal into a detailed plan on how to put it into practice.  Diplomats said the task was complicated but that progress had been made during the December 9-12 meeting in Vienna, even though differences remained. They said there was a real political will on both sides to carry out the agreement.

Five-Year Jail Term of Tweeter Upheld – MP to grill education minister

Source: Kuwait Times (Read full story)

The court of appeals yesterday upheld a five-year jail term against tweeter Mohammad Al- Mekhyal on charges of insulting HH the Amir and undermining his authorities. The court however postponed until Jan 22 the case of four opposition activists who are being tried on similar charges. The convicted man’s lawyer said the ruling was “harsh” and did not take into account his mental health problems.  Lawyer Mohammad Al-Humaidi said his client had been treated for mental illness since 1997 and “is not aware of his actions”. He said he would appeal to a higher court.

Rising population ‘to spur non-oil growth in Qatar’

Source: Gulf Times (Read full story)

Qatar’s rising population will have a “large positive” impact on the country’s non-oil growth, QNB has said in a report.  At the same time, the new wave of expansion will have a moderate impact on inflation and produce significantly higher road congestion in the next few years as new expatriates drive up demand for goods and services in the economy.  The new wave, QNB said, is mainly driven by expatriates filling in jobs created by the large ramp-up in infrastructure investment to prepare for the 2022 World Cup. This is similar to other waves of population growth that have been common in the region since the 1950s.

Kuwait, Ukraine eager to enhance economic cooperation

Source: Kuwait News Agency (Read full story)

Member of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Khaled Al-Khalid said Wednesday there is a desire from the Kuwaiti and Ukrainean sides to enhance the level of trade and economic relations to a new level through activation of bilateral agreements.  Al-Khalid told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on the sidelines of a meeting with a visiting Ukrainian delegation at the KCCI today that the joint efforts made by both sides through the Joint Economic Committee since 2003 have helped develop trade and economic relations.  He said that since then, bilateral economic relations have made great strides despite the need for more efforts, bilateral meetings and exchange of visits and delegations.

Outlook broadly stable for GCC banks

Source: Arab News (Read full story)

Fitch Ratings says the rating outlook for almost all banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is stable, largely driven by the probability of sovereign support.   Regional unrest has a negative impact on banks’ rating outlooks elsewhere in the Middle East.  The sector outlook is also stable overall, although differences between countries are more pronounced, including within the GCC.   For instance, Fitch believes that there is a more positive trend in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.   Qatari banks also benefit from a supportive environment, although rapid growth may result in capacity limitations and asset quality problems.