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GCC News Roundup: UAE oil tanker seized, Saudi Arabia releases Qatar national (July 1-31)

US, Iran tensions rise after tankers seized

A small oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker on July 13, leading the United States to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the region.

Iranian state media quoted its foreign ministry spokesman on July 17 as saying the Islamic Republic had aided a foreign oil tanker with a malfunction, but the report didn’t explain further.

On July 19, Britain said Iran seized two oil tankers in the Gulf and told Tehran to return the vessels or face consequences. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they had captured the British-flagged Stena Impero, announcing the move two weeks after the British navy seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar. Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said the second vessel, the British-operated Mesdar, had not been seized.

US, Taliban hold seventh round of peace talks in Qatar

Taliban and Afghan representatives, including some government officials, agreed to a basic road map for negotiating the country’s political future, a major step that could help propel peace efforts to end the long war, now in its 18th year.

In a joint declaration after two days of unprecedented discussions in Doha, the two sides emphasized a need to work toward reducing “civilian casualties to zero” and assuring women their fundamental rights in “political, social, economic, educational, cultural affairs.”

The declaration is not binding, and at best is a starting point for when the two sides meet later for negotiations that could lead to fixed terms.

Senate fails to block Trump’s vetoes

The U.S. Senate on July 29 failed to override President Donald Trump’s vetoes of legislation passed by Congress that would have blocked the sales of certain weapons to Saudi Arabia.

In the first of three separate efforts to overturn the Republican president’s vetoes, supporters failed by a vote of 45-40, well short of the two-thirds needed. Five of the chamber’s 53 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to override Trump.

Qatar hosts Intra-Afghan peace talks 

Dozens of high-profile Afghan politicians and civil society activists, including women, met with the Taliban in the Qatari capital for an intra-Afghan meeting that sought to promote lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

The two-day meeting, sponsored by Qatar and Germany, began on July 7 and was attended by a delegation of about 50 high-profile Afghan citizens. The meeting’s joint final communique included several important points, most notably the agreement of all conference participants that the achievement of sustainable peace in Afghanistan will be achieved only through comprehensive Afghan negotiations.

UAE says Yemen troop drawdown coordinated with Saudi Arabia

The United Arab Emirates had been planning its recent troop drawdown in Yemen for over a year and coordinated its move with key ally Saudi Arabia, a senior Emirati official said on July 8.

The UAE, a leading member of the Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, is reducing its military presence as worsening U.S.-Iran tensions threaten security closer to home. The Gulf state has pulled some troops from areas including the southern port of Aden and the western coast, but says it remains committed to the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia releases Qatari national from detention 

A Qatari national arrested in Yemen on suspicions of working with the Iran-aligned Houthis was released after more than a year in detention in Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) said.

Mohsen Al-Karbi was arrested in April 2018 by a Saudi-led coalition that is fighting in Yemen against the Houthi movement that ousted the internationally recognized government in power from the capital Sanaa.

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