Saudi-Azerbaijan Joint Commission seeks to bolster bilateral links

Updated 15 December 2015
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Saudi-Azerbaijan Joint Commission seeks to bolster bilateral links

RIYADH: The fourth meeting of the joint commission between the Kingdom and Azerbaijan held here on Tuesday sought to bolster bilateral cooperation when delegations from both sides exchanged views and information on the current economic situation in respective countries and reviewed the current status of cooperation.
Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Gov. Abdullatif Al-Othman, who represented the Saudi side at the joint commission, and Shahin Mustafayev, Azerbaijan’s minister of economy and industry, jointly chaired the session during which the two sides explored strategies to deepen the economic and commercial relationship between the two countries. They noted the religious, cultural and intellectual histories shared by both the countries.
Speaking at the joint commission meeting, Al-Othman said: “I am very pleased to welcome our friends from Azerbaijan as our two countries continue to expand our cooperation in a number of areas, including trade and investment."
He pointed that the input from the private sector and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has given a road-map for increasing the bilateral commercial activity.
"I believe the determination shown from both sides to implement these recommendations heralds a closer and mutually beneficial future for both Azerbaijan and the Kingdom,” he noted.
In an exclusive talk with Arab News, the SAGIA governor said that the meeting was very positive and both sides agreed on the need to increase the volume of bilateral trade exchanges in terms of quantity as well as quality, and work for better coordination in order to facilitate the procedure for the entry of goods and products.
He said: "A very high representation from Azerbaijan came for the joint commission meeting where we discussed specific action plans and key issues of mutual benefits to further bolster cooperation. There is a need for us to take advantage of what our economies offer."
He added: "There are opportunities for us to collaborate in petrochemicals, agriculture, tourism, education, health care and culture. We have a historic relationship with Azerbaijan and the entire central Asian countries," he maintained.
In a reply, he said the joint business council is one of the specific plans in the agenda.
Addressing the joint session, Mustafayev said: “I am very pleased to co-chair this year’s joint committee focused on increasing bilateral exports, strengthening investment channels and removing barriers to further enhance cooperation that help in the creation of a joint working group on oil, gas and mining and enhance joint investments."
He added that the session will build upon the work of the last meeting of the committee where “we made progress on eliminating double taxation and improved the linkages for bilateral investment. Despite starting at a low level, commercial exchanges between our countries have been on the rise, reaching almost $ 400 million to date invested in Azerbaijan by Saudi enterprises. We look forward to strengthening this relationship to build more bridges between the countries of the Islamic world,” he underlined.
Notably, the two sides at this 4th joint commission agreed to organize mutual business forums, exchange of information on exhibitions, conferences and business events in both countries and invite each business community from both the countries in order to help expand trade relations, increase the volume of trade, increase visits between businessmen from the two countries and explore the feasibility and benefits of establishing a Saudi-Azerbaijan joint business council.
Moreover, the two sides noted the importance of the current cooperation level between the security organs of the two countries and agreed on organizing mutual business visits of the heads of the services, and reviewing matters for ensuring security of the big economic projects to be held in the region and international events of OIC countries.
Furthermore, the Saudi Fund for Development (SDF) would like to extend cooperation between Saudi export program and the central bank of Azerbaijani federation for exchange, information and access to credit reports for Azerbaijani banks and companies and with Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce to introduce the financing facilities provided by the Saudi export program in order to achieve the contribution toward bilateral trade development.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the SAGIA governor and the visiting minister signed the minutes of the joint commission meeting.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.