Stockholm ‘risks losing Arab allies’

Updated 19 March 2015

Stockholm ‘risks losing Arab allies’

Swedish political and business leaders have criticized Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s government for its standoff with Saudi Arabia, saying it would lead to the Scandinavian country losing more allies in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia recalled its Ambassador to Sweden, Saad bin Ibrahim Al-Brahim, on March 11 after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom attacked the Kingdom’s human rights record. Sweden then decided not to negotiate a fresh five-year defense-industrial trade agreement with Riyadh.
“The decision not to negotiate a new defense-industrial agreement has damaged Sweden’s reputation. This is about Sweden’s credibility as a contractual partner. That credibility is important to a relatively small country like Sweden. This whole situation is unfortunate,” Carl Bildt, a former foreign minister, was quoted as saying by Defense News.
The Lofven government’s decision will have serious implications for Swedish trade and political relations with Arab League countries, warned Leif Johansson, chairman of Swedish telecom giant LM Ericsson.
“Making oneself an enemy of the Arab League has the potential to cause very great damage. It will be several years before we know how this will play out, and it will depend entirely on what Sweden does to repair our relations with these countries,” said Johansson, a former CEO of Volvo Group.
The government’s action in canceling fresh agreement talks will “weaken Sweden’s voice globally,” said Anna Kinberg-Batra, leader of the Moderate Party. “It remains to be seen what effect this hasty decision will have on trade and jobs. We are a country that is dependent on exports,” she said.
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a UAE-based political scientist and analyst, said that pulling the Saudi ambassador may well be the boiling point of the crisis, but he expects it to start to cool off soon.
“It’s Saudi Arabia’s right to be dismayed by what has been said by Sweden as it is an involvement in its internal affairs especially when it comes into a sensitive subject such as the human rights issue,” Abdulla said.
“I hope this issue remains closed between the two kingdoms and I think it will, because this crisis does not deserve escalation,” he said.
Abdulla added that none of the Gulf capitals would want an escalation of this crisis. However, if they are called upon, they would support Saudi Arabia.
Sweden’s defense exports declined by 33 percent to $1.3 billion in 2014. Of this amount, around 14 percent of the export value that year was earned from sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Oman.
Sweden’s leading captains of industry, including Stefan Persson and Annika Falkengren, have petitioned the government to negotiate a new defense-industrial agreement in order to safeguard Swedish exports, and business interests among Arab nations.
In a joint statement, business leaders urged the government not to walk away from talks. “Without trade, Sweden will lose the opportunity to make its voice heard in a globalized world, and to achieve real change.”
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest arms importers. “The repercussions of the Swedish move will not just be confined to the arms trade,” said Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai. “It will be more than this. The way it goes is if you don’t want to do business with Saudi Arabia — selling arms — the Saudis will not do business with you in everything else. Period,” he said.
“It will also have repercussions with arms deals in other countries in the Gulf because they are very close and they will start having fears that the Swedes will do the same thing with them,” he said.
“The impact on the Swedish arms market will be greater than just the Saudis, and most likely include other countries.”


Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

Updated 15 September 2019

Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

  • Saudi Aramco says no staff have been injured in attacks
  • The oil giant is working on restoring the lost quantities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said drones that attacked Saudi Aramco installations had caused an interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies and threaten the world economy.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said as a result of the terrorist acts, oil production in Abqaiq and Khurais was knocked out temporarily and that estimates show that 50 percent of the company’s production had been interrupted.

Part of the decrease will be compensated to clients through reserves, Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency.

The newly appointed minister confirmed there were no injuries to staff at the locations targeted, adding that the company is still assessing the resulting damage.

The attacks not only target the Kingdom’s vital installations, but also target the international oil supply and threaten its security, he said, and are a threat to the world economy. 

The blasts took place at 3:31am and 3:42am at the two locations, both in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, causing fires that were brought under control by emergency services.

The drone attacks, at the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq and at an oilfield in Khurais, highlight the importance of the international community to protect energy supply against “all terrorist sides that carry out, support and finance such cowardly disruptive acts,” the statement said.

He said that these blasts also knocked out the production of 2bn cubic feet of associated gas daily, used to produce 700,000 barrels of natural gas liquids, which will lead to an approximate 50 percent decrease of Ethane and natural gas liquids supply.

The statement said the company is currently working on restoring the lost quantities, and will present updated information within the next 48 hours.

World leaders condemned the attacks on Saudi Arabia on Saturday and those behind the terrorist acts. 

Donald Trump called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reassert his country's “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom, by all means conducive to maintain its security and stability.”

The Crown Prince "underscored the Kingdom’s willingness and strength to thwart such a terrorist aggression and deal with its consequences,” SPA reported on Saturday.

The UAE said it “condemns this act of terrorism and sabotage and considers it as a new evidence of the terrorist groups’ attempts to undermine the security and stability of the region as a whole.”

“The Houthis must stop undermining Saudi Arabia’s security by threatening civilian areas and commercial infrastructure,” said the British government.

“The US strongly condemns today’s drone attacks. These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost,” said the US envoy in Riyadh John Abizaid.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was emphatic about the need to condemn Iranian aggression, specifically on Saudi Arabia, and the need to ensure the security of world energy supplies.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” he tweeted, “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression”

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, said they had carried out the attacks and that 10 drones had been used.