OPEC+ officials ‘leave politics outside the door’ when they meet, Dubai summit told

OPEC+ officials ‘leave politics outside the door’ when they meet, Dubai summit told
Senior Middle East energy officials participated in the session titled “Is the world ready for a future beyond oil?” on Tuesday at the World Government Summit in Dubai. (AFP)
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Updated 30 March 2022

OPEC+ officials ‘leave politics outside the door’ when they meet, Dubai summit told

OPEC+ officials ‘leave politics outside the door’ when they meet, Dubai summit told
  • Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said oil market volatility would be worse without the alliance
  • UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei called for trust from the West, rather than being told to ‘do this or do that’

DUBAI: Members of the oil producers’ alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia “leave their politics outside the door” when they meet to discuss global markets, the Kingdom’s energy minister said on Tuesday.
Volatility in oil markets sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would be worse without the OPEC+ alliance, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told the World Government Summit in Dubai. Oil shot up to nearly $140 a barrel after Russia sent troops into its neighbor on Feb. 24, and crude is still trading at well over $100.
“If it wasn’t for OPEC+, what would have happened to energy security, stability and prosperity in the past two weeks?” Prince Abdulaziz said. “I certainly believe that if it wasn’t for OPEC+ existing, we would not be celebrating a sustainable energy market.
“When we get into the OPEC meeting room or building, everybody leaves his politics outside the door.”
OPEC+ plans to increase oil output by 400,000 barrels a day in April, as in past months, despite calls for it to accelerate production by even more. UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei called for trust from the West, rather than being told to “do this or do that.”
“We need their understanding that what we are doing is to the benefit of consumers,” Al-Mazrouei told the summit. “When we say this is the right way to do it, we know it from experience, so trust us.”
In a World Government Summit panel discussion on Monday entitled “Meeting the 2022 challenge: Will energy security derail the energy transition?,” experts discussed ways in which countries can shift their energy priorities to meet the challenges.

Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Emirates National Investment, said African energy producers could offer European nations the energy security solutions they need as the continent weans itself off Russian oil and gas.
“We don’t have our own energy so we never thought about a strategy on energy security,” said Descalzi. “When you don’t have something like that to think about, (how) can you cope with the future? Africa is a good opportunity because they need development, we need gas, and that is a good combination.”

For his part, Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, argued that energy security and energy transition do not need to be as mutually exclusive as they are so often depicted.
In fact, there can be no energy transition without energy security and affordability, he told the panel.

In that context, he said, the focus has been too much on starving supply and investment in oil and gas in an attempt to solve the climate crisis, while demand keeps soaring.


Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army
Updated 33 sec ago

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army
HEBRON: Israeli troops killed a Palestinian driver in the occupied West Bank Monday, officials on both sides said, with the army saying the car had hit a soldier’s leg before speeding off.
Nassim Naif Salman Abu Fouda, 26, died from “a bullet wound to the head fired by the occupation (Israeli) soldiers in Hebron this morning,” the Palestinian health ministry said.
The Israeli army said that soldiers had “identified a suspicious vehicle” and “asked the driver to stop the vehicle in order to inspect it.”
“A soldier approached the vehicle and the driver rammed into his leg,” it added.
Troops then “fired toward the vehicle as it attempted to flee the scene and hits were identified,” the army statement said. “The vehicle continued driving and then crashed.”
An eyewitness told AFP that “four or five soldiers surrounded him (Abu Fouda) when he was in his car, front and behind.”
“They started shooting at him, then he was hit,” added the witness, Hazem Abu Sneineh.
The army said the driver was taken from the car by Palestinian medics and “was later declared dead.”
Abu Fouda’s body was wrapped in a green Islamic prayer rug as it was carried from a mosque in central Hebron for burial, surrounded by hundreds of mourners.
He is the 35th Palestinian killed in the conflict this month, in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem — including militants, civilians and several children — according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
The funeral in Hebron was held just before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel for a visit that will also include talks with the Palestinian leadership, amid one of the conflict’s deadliest phases in years.
Israel is reeling after a Palestinian killed six Israelis including a child and one Ukrainian citizen in a shooting on Friday outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem.
The attack came a day after Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp, in a raid the army claimed targeted operatives from Islamic Jihad.
On Sunday, CIA Director Williams Burns held talks in the West Bank with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to discuss the “dangerous developments,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
The US embassy declined to comment to AFP on CIA chief’s meeting.

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows
Updated 17 min 17 sec ago

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

RIYADH: Deposits in Saudi banks grew by 9 percent year-on-year to SR2.29 trillion ($609.97 billion) with the major chunk deposited by government agencies, the monthly bulletin issued by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, showed.

Data showed that deposits by government entities rose by 27 percent, the highest in 16 years, reaching SR651.2 billion.

Saudi-listed banks reported a 21 percent rise in aggregate net profit before zakat and tax to SR6.16 billion in December 2022, compared to SR5.11 billion a year earlier.

The data covered the results of Tadawul-listed banks and some foreign banks operating in Saudi Arabia.

Banks’ aggregate assets increased nearly 10 percent year-on-year to SR3.62 trillion in December.

Loans issued to individuals in the Kingdom saw a 14 percent surge during 2022 reaching SR1.17 trillion by the end of 2022 as compared to SR1.02 trillion by the end of 2021.

The volume of residential real estate financing for individuals declined by 21 percent in 2022 for the first time since 2016. The total volume remained at SR123.4 billion.

The SAMA report showed that remittances from Saudi Arabia fell by 7 percent during 2022 to SR143.2 billion while remittances to the Kingdom from citizens living abroad recorded a growth of 11 percent to reach SR7.25 billion.

Assets held by the central bank shrank by SR63.8 billion month-on-month to SR1.93 trillion in December 2022. However, as compared to December 2021, SAMA’s assets rose by SR85.1 billion.

The central bank’s investments in foreign securities, which make up 58 percent of its total assets, edged down 0.2 percent year-on-year to around SR1.13 trillion last month.


Iran summons Ukraine envoy over top aide’s drone strike remarks

Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
Updated 18 min 59 sec ago

Iran summons Ukraine envoy over top aide’s drone strike remarks

Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
  • Podoliak linked in a tweet on Sunday Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of his country with the night-time strike on a military site

TEHRAN: Tehran on Monday summoned a Ukrainian diplomat to protest “biased” remarks by a presidential aide in Kyiv over a recent drone strike in Iran, the Islamic republic’s foreign ministry said.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, linked in a tweet on Sunday Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of his country with the night-time strike on a military site.
“Explosive night in Iran — drone and missile production, oil refineries,” he said. “War logic... bills the authors and accomplices strictly.”
“Ukraine did warn you,” Podoliak added.
Iran’s foreign ministry said Ukraine’s charge d’affaires in Tehran had been summoned to provide “an official and immediate explanation from the Ukrainian government.”
It called Podoliak’s remarks “strange and biased,” adding in a statement it hoped “such positions will not be repeated.”
Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack late Saturday night that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in the central Isfahan province, home to the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.
Dramatic video footage widely shared on social media and published by Iranian state media showed a fireball lighting up the night sky, with people outside seen running and emergency service vehicles speeding toward the site.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Iran of supplying military drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine, a claim that is denied by Tehran.


Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans

Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans
Updated 17 min 17 sec ago

Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans

Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans
  • UN, aid organization officials have visited country this month
  • Needs of Afghanistan a ‘priority,’ top UN aid chief said last week 

KABUL: Afghans are calling for more international support following increasingly restrictive edicts issued by the Taliban administration, as the US special representative for Afghanistan began a trip on Monday aimed at refining an international response to support the country.

The Taliban has introduced a series of restrictions on Afghan women since taking control of the country in 2021, including barring women from university and secondary schools. Authorities in December ordered all NGOs to ban women employees, though those in health were allowed to return to work earlier this month.

The moves drew widespread condemnation, with high-ranking UN officials and leaders of major international organizations visiting Afghanistan this month to try and reverse the Taliban’s crackdown on women and girls.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West will travel to Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland on a mission to “consult with partners, Afghans and humanitarian relief organizations,” the US Department of State said in a statement, in one of the latest efforts to address the situation in the South Asian country.

“SRA West will work with counterparts to refine a unified regional and international response that reflects a collective commitment to Afghan women and girls’ rights, and access to vital aid,” the statement added.

Afghans are hopeful that West’s trip could benefit Afghanistan, with some urging the international community to increase pressure on the Taliban.

“No doubt this mission will help in the case of Afghanistan. I believe if this mission is implemented in a way to find a solution for the misery of Afghan people it will most definitely work,” Mohibullah Sharif, an Afghan political expert based in Kabul, told Arab News.

“However, if like previously, the mission is only for securing the interests of regional and international players, this will bring no good for Afghans and will worsen the situation.”

Life in Afghanistan has grown increasingly difficult for women, said Shamsia Hassanzadah, a member of the Afghan Women’s Network and former director of Star Education Center in Kabul, who was affected by the ban on women working for NGOs.

“Women in NGOs should be allowed to work because a woman’s work is very important for their family economy,” Hassanzadah told Arab News, adding that she was the breadwinner in her family.

“We want the international community to bring further pressure on the current government of Afghanistan and we believe such steps and measures will help to decrease the Taliban’s restrictions toward Afghan women,” she added.

“It will also prevent or even stop the Taliban from issuing further decrees against women’s education and employment in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan needs more support from the UN and the global community, according to women’s rights activist Farimah Nikkhwah, who was also affected by the recent ban.

“In the current situation, Afghanistan needs the special attention of the UN and the international community to prevent the negative and illogical actions of the Taliban,” Nikkhwah told Arab News.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said last week following a Kabul visit that Taliban ministers are working on new guidelines to allow women more freedom in humanitarian work.

“The needs of Afghanistan, for us, are of the highest importance because of its people, because of its obvious, deserved priority for us in our humanitarian world. The need for Afghanistan to be properly serviced by humanitarian operations is also a global priority,” Griffiths told AFP in an interview.

When it comes to Afghan girls’ education, pleas are also coming from within the country, said Dr. Hatef Mokhtar, head of the Afghanistan International Strategic Studies Center.

“Afghans want Afghanistan to come out of isolation,” Mokhtar told Arab News.

“The opening of Afghan girls’ schools is not the voice of the world, but it is the voice of the Afghans themselves. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should take this issue seriously and open the girls’ schools as soon as possible.”


Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios
Updated 28 min 25 sec ago

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios
  • Smith will stay as adviser to the group

LONDON: Peter Smith, the managing director of MBC Studio, is stepping down from his role, the company announced.

“Peter Smith is stepping aside as managing director of MBC Studios,” said MBC CEO Sam Barnett.

“Pete has made invaluable contributions to the growth of MBC Studios during his four-year tenure, leading the production of numerous flagships, including ‘Rashash,’ ‘Rise of the Witches,’ ‘The Devil’s Promise,’ ‘Slave Market,’ and the launch of MBC’s slate of long-running dramas including ‘Al Mirath’ and ‘West Al Balad.’ 

“On behalf of the group, I would like to express my gratitude to Pete for his hard work and dedication during his tenure.”

The veteran TV executive is stepping down from the role after four successful years during which he assisted in the launch of the production arm of the free-to-air network MBC.

Over this time, the former president of NBCUniversal supervised an expansion in production activity as the company ramped up its investment in Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s ongoing attempt to support the growth of its film and media industry.

In a statement, Barnett said Smith will continue to act as an adviser to the group, particularly on the production of “Desert Warrior” and the distribution of premium content.

Smith’s successor has not been named yet, but the company said the new managing director will be announced “in due course, in coming days.”

The news comes a few days after the leading media and entertainment group in the Middle East and North Africa region announced a new partnership with next-gen platform Vice Media, which will see the American-Canadian company creating Arabic content exclusively for MBC Group.