August 25, 2020 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Asia, Middle East - Talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's chief were constructive, Iran's top nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying on Tuesday, after meeting Rafael Grossi during a visit to seek access for inspectors to two suspected former atomic sites.
August 25, 2020 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Asia, Middle East - Abu Dhabi started marketing on Tuesday a U.S. dollar-denominated bond offering split into three tranches of three, 10 and a half and 50 years, a document showed, as the oil-rich emirate props up its finances amid low oil prices and the coronavirus crisis.
August 25, 2020 - Gaza, Israel / Palestinian Territories, Middle East - Gaza is under lockdown as health officials investigate the first cases of COVID-19 in the general population. On Monday night authorities confirmed four infections in a refugee camp and security forces declared a full lockdown for 48 hours.
August 20, 2020 – DUBAI/WASHINGTON - The United Arab Emirates' accord to normalise ties with Israel should remove "any hurdle" for the United States to sell the F-35 stealth fighter jet to the Gulf Arab state, a senior Emirati official said on Thursday.
The United States has sold the F-35 to allies, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel, but sales to the Gulf require a deeper review due to U.S. policy for Israel to maintain a military advantage in the Middle East.
"We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them ... the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in an online interview with the Atlantic Council.
However, he said the UAE had not made any new requests to the Americans since the deal with Israel.
The Gulf state, one of Washington's closest Middle Eastern allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp, which Israel has used in combat.
An industry insider has told VSBCnews sources the United States is eyeing the sale of F-35s to the UAE in a side agreement to the UAE-Israel deal.
However, any F-35 sale could take years to negotiate and deliver, while Israel's prime minister has said his country would oppose any sale, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.
Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment and a leader in the U.S. weapons export process, told reporters on Thursday that in general, the United States aims to reach a letter of agreement for new F-35 sales in about 6 months. She referred questions on the UAE deal to the State Department.
A State Department spokesman deferred to Trump's comments from a news conference on Wednesday in which he said, "They'd like to buy F-35s, we'll see what happens, it's under review."
Poland, the most recent F-35 customer, purchased 32 of the jets in January, but will not receive its first delivery until 2024. Any sale would also need congressional approval.
Washington guarantees that Israel receives more advanced American weapons than Arab states, giving it what is labelled a “Qualitative Military Edge” over its neighbours.
"The UAE expects that its requirements will be accepted and we feel that with the signing of this peace treaty in the coming weeks or months ... that any hurdle towards this should no longer be there," Gargash said.
August 20, 2020 – Israel / Palestinian Territories, Middle East - Israeli soldiers fire at Palestinians preparing to attack Israeli cars in the occupied West Bank, the military says, and Palestinian officials say a Palestinian teenager was killed.
August 20, 2020 – Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Asia, Middle East - Iran inaugurated a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 1,400 km and a new cruise missile, Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami said in a televised speech on Thursday, ignoring U.S. demands that Tehran halt its missile program.
August 19, 2020 – Israel / Palestinian Territories, Middle East - Israel’s settlers thought their dream of West Bank annexation was within reach earlier this summer, but their prize slipped out of their grasp - for now at least - when Israel signed a diplomatic deal with the United Arab Emirates that ruled annexation out. Some settlers are furious with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and are urging their leaders to withdraw political support for him. But there are divisions among what is a key element of Netanyahu's right-wing base.
August 18, 2020 – DUBAI - The head of Israel's foreign intelligence service Mossad met the national security adviser of the United Arab Emirates during a visit to Abu Dhabi, UAE state news agency WAM said on Tuesday.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates said on Thursday they would normalise diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship.
Joseph (Yossi) Cohen and Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed ways in which to support the new accord.
"The two sides discussed prospects for cooperation in the security field, and shared perspectives on regional developments and issues of common interested, including both countries' efforts to contain COVID-19," WAM added.
Following the deal's announcement last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Cohen in a tweet in Arabic for his help in developing Israeli relations with Gulf states, which he said helped in securing the UAE-Israel deal.
August 18, 2020 – DUBAI - Oman's sultan has designated ministers of foreign affairs and finance, and a central bank chairman, titles formerly held by himself, in a revamp that may signal increased reform momentum for the struggling oil producer.
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, who took power in January after Sultan Qaboos bin Said died after a half century in power, maintains the titles of prime minister, defence minister and armed forces chief following the decrees read on state television on Tuesday.
Oman, whose debt is rated "junk" by all major ratings agencies, is struggling with a widening budget deficit and economic downturn from the double blow of low oil prices and coronavirus.
Sultan Haitham said earlier this year the government would work to reduce public debt and restructure institutions to bolster the economy.
"The fiscal demands on the state and the shifting grounds of regional politics require an update," said Kristin Smith Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
The Gulf Arab country previously had ministers responsible for financial and foreign affairs, with briefs overseen by the sultan.
Under Sultan Haitham's revamp, Badr al-Busaidi becomes foreign minister, Sultan al-Habsi finance minister and Taimur bin Asaad al-Saeed central bank chairman.
The series of decrees also dissolved and merged government bodies into new ministries, renamed entities and redefined functions.
The oil and gas ministry became a ministry of energy and minerals, with Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhi remaining minister. Oman is part of the OPEC+ oil producers alliance.
"The new ministerial appointments come as part of a broader public administration reform, ostensibly geared towards greater delegation of executive responsibilities away from the sultan," said Alexander Perjessy, senior analyst at Moody's.
"This has a potential to alleviate some decision-making capacity constraints and reduce bureaucratic delays in policy implementation, which have slowed Oman's economic reforms and fiscal adjustment."
In a turbulent region, Oman has maintained its neutrality. It kept friendly relations with a range of regional actors, including arch-foes the United States and Iran, under former minister responsible for foreign affairs, Yousuf bin Alawi.
August 18, 2020 – JERUSALEM - Israel would oppose any U.S. F-35 warplane sales to the United Arab Emirates despite forging relations with the Gulf power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.
The statement followed a report in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the Trump administration planned a "giant" F-35 deal with the UAE as part of the Gulf country's U.S.-brokered move last week to normalise ties with Israel.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and representatives of the UAE government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Under understandings dating back decades, Washington has refrained from Middle East arms sales that could blunt Israel's "qualitative military edge" (QME). This has applied to the F-35, denied to Arab states, while Israel has bought and deployed it.
"In the talks (on the UAE normalisation deal), Israel did not change its consistent positions against the sale to any country in the Middle East of weapons and defence technologies that could tip the (military) balance," Netanyahu's office said.
This opposition includes any proposed F-35 sale, it added.
The Trump administration has signalled that the UAE could clinch unspecified new U.S. arms sales after last Thursday's normalisation announcement.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, an observer in Netanyahu's security cabinet, noted that past U.S. administrations had "against our wishes" sold the UAE more advanced F-16 warplanes than Israel possesses as well as F-15 warplanes to Saudi Arabia.
Even were Washington to sell F-35s to the UAE, Steinitz told public radio station Kan that they would be unlikely to pose a danger to Israel as the distance between the countries is more than twice the jet's range without refuelling.
"I would like to offer us reassurance. Any F-35 that ends up, ultimately, in the United Arab Emirates - not that we would be happy with this, as we always want to be the only ones (with such arms) in the region - threatens Iran far more than it does us," he said, citing a foe common to Israel and many Gulf Arabs.