GCC declares Hezbollah a terrorist organization

Updated 03 March 2016
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GCC declares Hezbollah a terrorist organization

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Wednesday declared the Lebanon-based Shiite group Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani said the decision was a result of hostile acts being carried out by Hezbollah elements, including the recruitment of young people from Gulf states to sow discord and carry out terrorist acts.
He said recruits were being trained “to smuggle weapons and explosives, to incite sedition, disorder and violence in a flagrant violation of their sovereignty, security and stability” in GCC states, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
"The GCC states consider Hezbollah militias' practices in the Council's states and their terrorist and subversive acts being carried out in Syria, Yemen and Iraq contradict moral and humanitarian values and principles and the international law and pose a threat to Arab national security,” Al-Zayani said.
Gulf nations have taken a series of measures against Hezbollah since Saudi Arabia last month halted a $3 billion program funding French military supplies to Beirut.
Hezbollah is backed by Iran, which supports opposing sides to Riyadh in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Announcing the military funding cut last month, a Saudi official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state.”
He specifically cited Lebanon’s refusal to join the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in condemning attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after Iranian fanatics burned the Saudi embassy and a consulate following the execution of a Shiite preacher Nimr Al-Nimr in the kingdom for terrorism.
Last week Saudi Arabia urged its nationals to leave Lebanon and avoid traveling there.
Qatar and Kuwait followed with similar travel advisories. But the United Arab Emirates went further, banning its nationals from travel to Lebanon and reducing diplomatic representation there.
Saudi Arabia last week extended sanctions on Hezbollah, freezing the assets and prohibiting dealings with three Lebanese nationals and four companies.
The GCC had already sanctioned Hezbollah in 2013, targeting residency permits and the movement’s financial and business activities in reprisal for its armed intervention in Syria.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday called on Saudi Arabia not to collectively punish Lebanon’s people just because Riyadh disagreed with his group’s policies.
In a televised address, Nasrallah said Saudi Arabia does not have “the right to sanction the Lebanese people because one particular party took a certain position.”

(Additional input from AFP)


Wealthy Gulf individuals feel more confident about regional prospects

Updated 3 min 17 sec ago
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Wealthy Gulf individuals feel more confident about regional prospects

  • “Factors like the region’s stability, attractive investment opportunities and low-tax environment are seen as the main drivers behind the growing confidence in the region’s economy.”
  • Among the most optimistic were respondents in the UAE, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying they thought the overall outlook was improving.

DUBAI: Survey finds growing optimism on region’s economies, but Saudi investors remain wary.

Wealthy individuals in the Gulf are more optimistic over the future of the region and the global economy compared with last year, and are increasing likely to invest in their own countries and other emerging markets in Asia than in western economies. These are among the main findings of an annual survey by Dubai-based Emirates Investment Bank (EIB), released on Tuesday, of the sentiment among high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in the region. 

After two years of falling confidence, some 60 percent of regional HNWIs now believe things will improve or stay the same. Fewer are pessimistic about both regional and global economic prospects than last year, while nearly 80 percent of respondents said they would prefer to invest in Gulf assets, rather than looking abroad.

The recovering oil price was a big reason for the increasing feel-good factor in the Gulf, according to Khalid Sifri, EIB’s chief executive officer, who added: “Factors like the region’s stability, attractive investment opportunities and low-tax environment are seen as the main drivers behind the growing confidence in the region’s economy.”

After falling below $30 per barrel in early 2016, oil has subsequently recovered to a three-and-a-half-year high, breaching the $75 a barrel mark yesterday for the first time since November 2014.

However, the overall optimism of the survey masks some concerns among regional HNWIs; in Saudi Arabia, 48 percent of respondents said that they saw the regional economic situation improving or staying the same, against 52 percent who felt it was likely to worsen in 2018.The survey was conducted last November and December, when investor sentiment in the Kingdom was affected by the high-profile anti-corruption campaign undertaken against some prominent business people accused of financial wrong-doing. “It may have been affected by that. We shall see what the situation is at the end of this year,” Sifri said. 

Respondents from Kuwait were even more pessimistic. None of the respondents from the country felt that things were going to improve on the investment front this year, while 54 percent said they would worsen. Among the most optimistic were respondents in the UAE, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying they thought the overall outlook was improving. On the long-term global outlook, a total of 78 percent of those surveyed across the region were optimistic about prospects over the next five years, with most citing positive economic and political stability as the reason, along with a smaller number who said oil price stabilization would benefit the world economy. The oil price recovery was the biggest reason for regional optimism. 

The geopolitics of the region was claimed as a big factor in deciding investment decisions, but Saudis were less concerned than others. Only 29 percent in the Kingdom said they were influenced by geo-political events, compared with 83 percent in Qatar and 85 percent in the UAE. 

Oil prices, economic reforms and the introduction of VAT were also factors influencing investment, as was the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA. There has been a big shift in global investor orientation outside the GCC. Nearly half of regional wealthy investors (47 percent) are now looking to Asia, 38 percent to the wider Middle East and North Africa, some 34 percent to Europe and only 17 percent to North America. The survey was conducted among 100 HNWIs with $2 million or more in investable assets.