GCC News Roundup: UN report calls for further investigation into Khashoggi murder (June 1-30)

A policeman stands guard as an Indonesian journalist holds a placard during a protest over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in front of the Saudi Arabia embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta - RC1787518E20

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UN report calls for further investigation into Khashoggi murder

On June 19, a U.N. rights investigator stated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials should be investigated over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi given credible evidence against them.

After a six-month investigation, the 100-page report by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, accused Saudi Arabia of a “deliberate, premeditated execution.” “There is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince demanding further investigation,” Callamard said.

US accuses Iran of attacking tankers in Gulf of Oman

The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 that drove up oil prices and raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation, but Tehran bluntly denied the allegation.

It was not immediately clear what befell the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which both experienced explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave the vessels adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.

Russia, Saudi Arabia agree to extend OPEC+ deal

Russia has agreed with Saudi Arabia to extend by six to nine months a deal with OPEC on reducing oil output, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, as oil prices come under renewed pressure from rising U.S. supplies and a slowing global economy.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, meet on July 1-2 to discuss the deal, which involves curbing oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd).

US presents Palestinian investment program at Bahrain meeting

The Trump administration launched a $50 billion economic formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace on June 25, saying an investment program for the Palestinians was a precondition for ending the decades-old conflict.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner opened a two-day international meeting in Bahrain to rally support for the blueprint, which has met broad disdain from Palestinians and others in the Arab world, although regional U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia discreetly support it.

US, Taliban peace talks continue in Qatar

A fresh round of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban began in Qatar on June 29, just days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is hoping for an Afghan peace agreement before September 1.

The two sides sat down mid-afternoon for the seventh time in a series of direct talks that began last year following the appointment of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Yemen’s Houthi forces target Saudi airports

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have accelerated missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, highlighting the kingdom’s military vulnerabilities in defending itself against an Iranian ally amid a crisis in U.S.-Iran relations.

The Saudi-led military coalition vowed to respond firmly to a missile attack by Houthi forces on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on June 12 that wounded 26 people.

US fighter planes deployed to Qatar in response to Iran tensions

Nearly a dozen Air Force F-22 stealth fighters have deployed to Qatar as part of a force buildup requested by U.S. Central Command in May in response to what it called heightened Iranian threats against American forces in the region.

The Air Force arm of U.S. Central Command on June 28 said this is the first time F-22s have deployed to al-Udeid air base, which is a hub for U.S. air operations in the Middle East.

Bahrain summons Iraqi diplomat after embassy attack

Bahrain summoned an Iraqi diplomat in the kingdom on June 28 over an attack the previous evening on its embassy in Baghdad, condemning the protesters who stormed the mission and urging Iraqi authorities to protect the diplomatic compound, Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported.

The attack, apparently carried out by supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, is unlikely to mar relations between Iraq and Gulf Arab nations, which have steadily been improving since Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi took office.