China and the Gulf crisis — the stakes are high

Chinese President Xi Jinping is greeted by King Salman. (SPA)
Updated 08 July 2017
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China and the Gulf crisis — the stakes are high

LONDON: Events in the Gulf have accelerated dramatically over the past month, bringing with it global attention given the region’s strategic position in terms of energy and financial resources. One country that has a big stake in the Gulf is China, which is watching developments very closely.
According to some Chinese experts, the Gulf crisis may have taken Beijing by surprise. China has called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis through dialogue, but has kept a low profile and made until now a few cautious comments and moves.
Beijing cannot ignore what is happening. The Gulf is China’s largest supplier of oil and second-largest provider of natural gas. The region is also the eighth-largest export market for China. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets account for 46 percent of China’s total exports to the Middle East, according to official Chinese data.
Saudi Arabia is China’s top trade partner in the Middle East, while the UAE is the largest market in the region for Chinese goods. China is Saudi Arabia’s third-largest oil customer after Japan and the US, while Qatar is China’s second-largest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after Australia.
Song Niu, associate professor of the Middle East Studies Institute at the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), told Arab News: “The current Qatar crisis has seriously affected the overall stability of the Gulf. The GCC countries are one of the top priorities for China’s Middle East diplomacy, since they’re significant partners in the Belt and Road Initiative.”
Beijing has not yet sided with any party in the crisis, but Song said: “Saudi Arabia is the largest and most powerful actor in the GCC, and has close contacts with China in political, economic, military and religious areas. Qatar is a small country, and its status in China’s Middle East diplomacy is hard to compare with Saudi Arabia.”
Qian Xuming, a research fellow at the Middle East Studies Institute at SISU, told Arab News: “The Gulf crisis will have no substantive impact on China as Beijing has good relations with all sides.” But Beijing “should communicate with both sides, help find a peaceful solution to the crisis and reduce the negative impact on the Belt and Road Initiative.”
Energy is at the heart of Gulf-China relations. Degang Sun of SISU’s Middle East Studies Institute told Arab News that Beijing “has been quite surprised by the Gulf crisis. Since 50 percent of its imported oil comes from the region, China is a major stakeholder.
“Besides, China wants a stable and peaceful Gulf so it can implement its Belt and Road Initiative. With substantial investment in infrastructure in the area, Beijing strongly advocates that the dispute should be settled by peaceful means as soon as possible.”
Chinese analysts expect that energy imports from the Gulf will not be affected, but Qian said: “Some contracted construction projects will be affected, including a new port, a medical services area, a section of railway and eight venues. The price of some materials will rise due to closure of the land crossings.”
Importantly, a former Chinese ambassador who previously worked in a GCC country told Arab News that the crisis has negatively affected the Gulf’s image among China’s political decision-makers. “After the region was seen as an oasis of stability in the troubled Middle East, the rapid deterioration of the situation took the Chinese leadership by surprise,” he said, adding that Beijing may seek to diversify its energy imports.


Turkey to lift state of emergency after two-year purge

Updated 18 July 2018
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Turkey to lift state of emergency after two-year purge

  • The state of emergency, which normally lasts three months, was extended seven times
  • During last month’s presidential election campaign, which he won, Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that the state of emergency would end

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s state of emergency which was imposed after the failed 2016 coup is to end Wednesday but the opposition fears it will be replaced by even more repressive legislative measures.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the state of emergency on July 20, 2016, five days after warplanes bombed Ankara and bloody clashes broke out in Istanbul in a doomed putsch bid that claimed 249 lives.
The measure, which normally lasts three months but was extended seven times, has seen the detention of some 80,000 people and about double that number sacked from jobs in public institutions.
The biggest purge of Turkey’s modern history has targeted not just alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed for the coup, but also Kurdish activists and leftists.
The former leaders of the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas — are still languishing in jail following their arrest in November 2016 on charges of links to Kurdish militants.
During last month’s presidential election campaign, which he won, Erdogan pledged that the state of emergency would end.
And it will — at 1:00 am on Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday), simply by virtue of the government not asking that it be extended.
But the opposition has been angered by the government’s submission of new legislation to parliament that apparently seeks to formalize some of the harshest aspects of the emergency.
The bill, dubbed “anti-terror” legislation by pro-government media, will be discussed at commission level on Thursday and then in plenary session on Monday.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said the new measures would amount to a state of emergency on their own.
“With this bill, with the measures in this text, the state of emergency will not be extended for three months, but for three years,” said the head of the CHP’s parliamentary faction, Ozgur Ozel.
“They make it look like they are lifting the emergency but in fact they are continuing it,” he added.
Under the proposed legislation, the authorities will retain for three more years the power to sack civil servants deemed linked to “terror” groups, retaining a key power of the state of emergency.
Protests and gatherings will be banned in open public areas after sunset, although they can be authorized until midnight if they do not disturb the public order.
Local authorities will be able to prohibit individuals from entering or leaving a defined area for 15 days on security grounds.
And suspect can be held without charge for 48 hours or up to four days in the case of multiple offenses.
This period can be extended up to twice if there is difficulty in collecting evidence or if the case is deemed to be particularly voluminous.
The authorities have also shown no hesitation in using the special powers of the emergency — right up to its final days.
Following a decree issued on July 8, 18,632 people were sacked — 8,998 of them police officers — over suspected links to terror organizations and groups that “act against national security.”
The move came just two weeks after Erdogan was reelected under a new system that gives him greater powers than any Turkish leader since the aftermath of World War II.
The new executive presidency means government ministries and public institutions are now centralized under the direct control of the presidency.
Erdogan says it is necessary to have a more efficient government but the opposition claims it has placed Turkey squarely under one-man rule.
“The end of the state of emergency does not mean our fight against terror is going to come to an end,” said Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul.