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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and Iraqi ministers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 17, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC1A0CFF1D20
Up Front

GCC News Roundup: Saudi’s King Salman visits Bahrain, Qatar hosts Taliban and US peace talks (April 1-30)

SAUDI KING SALMAN VISITS BAHRAIN 

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman visited Bahrain, a key ally and recipient of a $10 billion Gulf state bailout, on April 3 to discuss bilateral relations and regional developments, Bahraini and Saudi state media reported. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates together pledged $10 billion in financial aid to Bahrain in October to rescue it from a potential debt crisis.

QATAR SUES UAE, SAUDI ARABIA, AND LUXEMBOURG BANKS

In the beginning of April, Qatar filed a lawsuit against three banks, stating that they had caused billions of dollars of damage to its economy in the wake of the 2017 blockade.

The lawsuit accuses Samba Bank, based in Saudi Arabia, First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC, as well as Luxembourg based Banque Havilland SA of “launch[ing] a campaign of financial warfare against Qatar.” The filings stated that the the currency manipulation was intended to “deplete Qatar’s financial reserves so that it would be unable to complete its preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup games and would be forced to share the games with Saudi Arabia or the UAE.”

WORLD CUP EXPANSION TALKS HELD IN KUWAIT

FIFA President Gianni Infantino held talks in Kuwait on Sunday about the country staging 2022 World Cup matches as he pushed to expand the Qatar tournament from 32 to 48 teams. After meeting with the emir of Kuwait and football officials, Infantino flew to Qatar on April 29 to see Qatari leaders about the prospect of overcoming the logistical and political complexities of adding 16 more teams to the event, which requires at least one additional Gulf country being used as a host. 

BAHRAIN: 139 SENTENCED TO PRISON IN MASS TERRORISM TRIAL

Bahrain handed down 69 life sentences and stripped 138 of their citizenship in a mass trial. The individuals were accused of building a cell called “Bahraini Hezbollah,” in order to disrupt the Kingdom. All 139 are believed to be of the Shiite minority group, which has long accused Bahrain of discrimination against them. Bahrain has been accused of using terrorism related charges to crack down on protesters as well as revoking Bahraini nationality arbitrarily

Iraqi prime minister makes first visit to Saudi Arabia

Two weeks after Saudi Arabia reopened its consulate in Baghdad for the first time in almost 30 years, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s visited the kingdom

Abdul Mahdi went to Riyadh with trade billed as a prime focus of the discussions between OPEC’s two largest oil producers. According to his office, the leaders signed 13 agreements in areas like trade, energy, and political cooperation.

SAUDI ARABIA EXECUTES 37

In one of the largest mass executions in its history Saudi Arabia executed 37 men on April 23. The men had been convicted for terrorism-related crimes; some were crucified after their execution as a warning to others. The men were accused of  “adopting terrorist and extremist thinking” and of “forming terrorist cells to corrupt and destabilize security,” a statement of the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

The majority of the men were part of the country’s Shiite minority group. Amnesty International stated, that this was an “indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority.” Amongst the executed men was Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, who was arrested at age 16.

Documents obtained by CNN show that many of the slain men had alleged torture prior to their conviction. The men stated to the courts that their confessions had been obtained through torture and in some cases the confessions themselves were written and signed by the torturers themselves.

ISRAEL PLANS TO PARTICIPATE IN 2020 WORLD EXPO HELD IN THE UAE

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that Tel Aviv will participate in the 2020 World Expo to be held in Dubai. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s participation was “another expression of Israel’s rising status in the world and the region.”

However, the UAE has stated, that “the invitation to participate does not signal a change in relations between the UAE and Israel, in the diplomatic arena, or any other area.” 

QATAR HOSTS TALIBAN AND US PEACE TALKS

The sixth round of talks between American and Taliban officials resumed this week in Doha, Qatar. Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy leading the American delegation, has said the talks will ultimately focus on four main issues. They include troop withdrawal; guarantees against terrorism; talks between the Taliban and the American-supported government of Afghanistan to establish a path toward political settlement; and a lasting cease-fire.

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