Saudi Arabia, UAE ‘the locomotives of the region’ says French trade commissioner

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Updated 17 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, UAE ‘the locomotives of the region’ says French trade commissioner

Saudi Arabia, UAE ‘the locomotives of the region’ says French trade commissioner
  • Vision Golfe returns for a second edition June 4-5 at the French Ministry of Economy in Paris
  • The benchmark event between France and the Gulf countries aims to promote trade and economic relations

DUBAI: After the success of its first edition, Vision Golfe returns for a second edition June 4-5 at the Ministry of Economy, Finance, Industry and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty in Paris.

The benchmark event between France and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries aims to promote trade and economic relations, building on a long-standing relationship between France and the GCC states, particularly between France and Saudi Arabia.

“Between France and the GCC countries … we have a long story of friendship. We build bridges together based on mutual comprehension, respect, mutual interest, ambition, and our political bilateral relation is absolutely at the top,” said Axel Baroux, trade and invest commissioner of Business France Middle East, in an interview with Arab News in French.

“We have a great and solid commercial and investment relationship, but I think that we can do even more,” he added.

Vision Golfe is a platform to promote business cooperation in markets with high growth potential, and an opportunity to meet key economic players: ministers, start-ups, and senior executives, among others.

“Vision Golfe is a tool, the starting point for negotiations and discussions. Discussions continue throughout the year … our trade and investment grew last year by almost 8 percent,” declared Baroux.

“If I take the figures of the GCC investment in France, we are reaching €14 billion ($15.178 billion) which is exactly €13.7 billion,” he added, while pointing out that the figure is underestimated for not considering indirect investments.

Despite the challenges facing the global economy, Gulf countries continue to offer an environment conducive to investment and talent attraction, leveraging national policies focused on economic diversification, sustainable development, and energy transition.This creates a favourable atmosphere for the establishment of companies in various sectors such as energy and new technologies, as well as sectors such as healthcare, education, retail, and tourism.

As the two largest markets in a region marked by considerable growth in trade, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are today “the locomotives of the region,” Baroux says.

This explains the rise in French companies setting up operations and participating in major projects and trade in the Gulf.

Baroux highlighted his participation in a delegation of French companies in Saudi Arabia, with over 120 companies taking part in the event organized by Business France and the MEDEF, in the presence of the director general of Business France, Laurent Saint Martin, French foreign trade advisors, and Bruno Bonnell, the secretary-general for Investment FRANCE 2030.

“We were admirably received. Agreements were signed with STC and Business France. We also visited the PIF, and had discussions with MISA,” he added.

The UAE also offers opportunities for French companies across sectors, with “more than 600 French companies on ground … Translating into direct employment, projects and a solid economic relationship,” according to Baroux.

“We have very strong, very solid bilateral economic relations between France and the GCC and it is a reason why we expect Vision Golfe to be the annual rendez-vous, the annual meeting, where all the companies from the GCC and from France can meet together in Paris,” he added.        

HIGHLIGHTS

Vision Golfe is a platform for exchanges, networking, and the signing of agreements.

It aims to present success stories of major partnerships that contribute to the strategies of Gulf countries.

The program includes an opening speach by Business France CEO Laurent Saint Martin, in the presence of ministers from France and the GCC, and a panel addressing “The Gulf at the crossroads of Asia and Europe” to kick off two days of panels and meetings.

Thematic and sector-specific discussions and round tables are on the agenda, with topics including but not limited to:

 

• Converging national strategies

• Building sustainable partnerships

• How to invest and set up a business in the Gulf

• Energy for the future: sustainable energy and resource management after COP28

• Cooperation and investment opportunities in various sectors

• France as Europe’s most attractive destination for foreign direct investment

Economic diversification, innovation, artificial intelligence, infrastructure, and transport development are among the themes addressed during the second edition.

The French touch and know-how will also be in the spotlight, in the presence of a number of guests and speakers, such as Jean Yves LeDrian, chair of the French Agency for the Development of AlUla, the CEO of NIDLP Suliman Almazroua, the secretary-general of the UAE International Investors Council, Jamal Saif Al-Jarwan, with the participation of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, Mohamed Bin Zayed University, and Kuwaiti and Qatari groups to state a few.

“Vision Golfe 2023 was a real success, and of course, I expect more for Vision Golfe 2024. More B2B meetings, more partnerships, even more interaction between French companies and GCC companies. We will have this year at Vision Golfe 2024 some key agreements that will be signed, during the session,” said Baroux.


An Israel offensive into Lebanon risks an Iranian military response, top US military leader says

An Israel offensive into Lebanon risks an Iranian military response, top US military leader says
Updated 24 June 2024
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An Israel offensive into Lebanon risks an Iranian military response, top US military leader says

An Israel offensive into Lebanon risks an Iranian military response, top US military leader says
  • US President Joe Biden’s senior adviser Amos Hochstein met with officials in Lebanon and Israel last week in an effort to deescalate tensions
  • Pentagon officials have said that Austin has also raised concerns about a broader conflict when he spoke to Gallant in a recent phone call

ESPARGOS, Cape Verde: The top US military officer said Sunday that an Israeli military offensive into Lebanon will risk an Iranian response in defense of Hezbollah, triggering a broader war that could put US forces in the region in danger.
Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran “would be more inclined to support Hezbollah.” He added Tehran supports Hamas, but would give greater backing to Hezbollah “particularly if they felt that Hezbollah was being significantly threatened.”
Brown spoke to reporters as he traveled to Botswana for a meeting of African defense ministers.
Israeli officials have threatened a military offensive in Lebanon if there is no negotiated end to push Hezbollah away from the border. Just days ago, Israel’s military said it had “approved and validated” plans for an offensive in Lebanon, even as the US works to prevent the months of cross-border attacks from spiraling into a full-blown war.
US officials have tried to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The issue is expected to come up this week as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visits Washington for meetings with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior US officials.
US President Joe Biden’s senior adviser Amos Hochstein met with officials in Lebanon and Israel last week in an effort to deescalate tensions. Hochstein told reporters in Beirut on Tuesday that it was a “very serious situation” and that a diplomatic solution to prevent a larger war was urgent.
Brown also said the US won’t likely be able to help Israel defend itself against a broader Hezbollah war as well as it helped Israel fight off the Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April. It is harder to fend off the shorter-range rockets that Hezbollah fires routinely across the border into Israel, he said.
Pentagon officials have said that Austin has also raised concerns about a broader conflict when he spoke to Gallant in a recent phone call.
“Given the amount of rocket fire we’ve seen going from both sides of the border, we’ve certainly been concerned about that situation, and both publicly and privately have been urging all parties to restore calm along that border, and again, to seek a diplomatic solution,” said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary last week.
A war between the two heavily-armed foes could be devastating to both countries and incur mass civilian casualties. Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is believed to be far more extensive than Hamas’.
Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah have exchanged fire across Lebanon’s border with northern Israel since fighters from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip staged a bloody assault on southern Israel in early October that set off the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
The situation escalated this month after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hezbollah military commander in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah retaliated by firing hundreds of rockets and explosive drones into northern Israel and Israel responded with a heavy assault on the militant group.
Israeli strikes have killed more than 400 people in Lebanon, including 70 civilians. On Israel’s side, 16 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.
An escalation in the conflict could also trigger wider involvement by other Iran-backed militant groups in the region, leading to all-out war.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last Wednesday that militant leaders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries have previously offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to help Hezbollah, but he said the group already has more than 100,000 fighters.

 


Heads of churches say Israeli government is demanding they pay property tax, upsetting status quo

Heads of churches say Israeli government is demanding they pay property tax, upsetting status quo
Updated 23 June 2024
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Heads of churches say Israeli government is demanding they pay property tax, upsetting status quo

Heads of churches say Israeli government is demanding they pay property tax, upsetting status quo

JERUSALEM: Leaders of major churches have accused Israeli authorities of launching a “coordinated attack” on the Christian presence in the Holy Land by initiating tax proceedings against them.
While Israeli officials have tried to dismiss the disagreement as a routine financial matter, the churches say the move upsets a centuries-old status quo and reflects mounting intolerance for the tiny Christian presence in the Holy Land.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, the heads of the major Christian denominations alleged that four municipalities across Israel had recently submitted warning letters to church officials cautioning them of legal action if they did not pay taxes.
“We believe these efforts represent a coordinated attack on the Christian presence in the Holy Land,” wrote the heads of the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches. “In this time, when the whole world, and the Christian world in particular, are constantly following the events in Israel, we find ourselves, once again, dealing with an attempt by authorities to drive the Christian presence out of the Holy Land.”
Christians are a tiny minority, making up less than 2 percent of the population of Israel and the Palestinian territories. There are 182,000 Christians in Israel, 50,000 in the West Bank and Jerusalem and 1,300 in Gaza, according to the US State Department. The vast majority are Palestinians.
The churches, who are major landowners in the Holy Land, say they do not pay property taxes under longstanding tradition. They say their funds go to services that benefit the state, like schools, hospitals and homes for the elderly.
The letter said the municipalities of Tel Aviv, Ramla, Nazareth and Jerusalem in recent months have all either issued warning letters or commenced legal action for alleged tax debts.
The Jerusalem municipality told The Associated Press that the church had not submitted the necessary requests for tax exemptions over the last few years. It said that “a dialogue is taking place with the churches to collect debts for the commercial properties they own.”
The other municipalities did not immediately comment. It was unclear if the municipalities acted in a coordinated effort or whether the tax moves are coincidental.
In 2018, Christians closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — revered by Christians as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection — to protest a move by Israeli officials to impose taxes on commercial properties in the holy city.
The Christian leaders argued that the sites — like pilgrim hostels and information centers — served important religious and cultural purposes, and that taxing them would infringe on Christian religious observance in the Holy Land. After the public backlash, Netanyahu quickly suspended the plan.


Bahrain and Iran agree to start talks on resuming political relations

Bahrain and Iran agree to start talks on resuming political relations
Updated 59 min 51 sec ago
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Bahrain and Iran agree to start talks on resuming political relations

Bahrain and Iran agree to start talks on resuming political relations
  • Bahrain’s minister of foreign affairs Abdullatif Al-Zayani and Iran’s acting foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani met in Tehran

LONDON: Bahrain and Iran agreed on Sunday to start talks aimed at resuming political relations between the two countries, Bahrain News Agency reported.

A joint statement was released after a meeting that brought together Bahrain’s minister of foreign affairs Abdullatif Al-Zayani and Iran’s acting foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani in Tehran.

According to the statement carried by BNA, the discussions were held “within the framework of the historical fraternal relations between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the ties of religion, neighborhood, common history and mutual interests between them.”


Israel PM says ‘intense’ fighting with Hamas in Rafah ‘about to end’

Israel PM says ‘intense’ fighting with Hamas in Rafah ‘about to end’
Updated 23 June 2024
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Israel PM says ‘intense’ fighting with Hamas in Rafah ‘about to end’

Israel PM says ‘intense’ fighting with Hamas in Rafah ‘about to end’
  • “The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s pro-Netanyahu Channel 14

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the Israeli military’s heavy fighting against Hamas militants in the southern Gaza city of Rafah is nearly over.
Netanyahu, in his first interview with an Israeli network since the war with Hamas broke out on October 7, said troops would soon be deployed to the northern border with Lebanon but for “defensive purposes.”
“The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s pro-Netanyahu Channel 14.
“It doesn’t mean that the war is about to end, but the war in its intense phase is about to end in Rafah,” he said.
“After the end of the intense phase, we will be able to redeploy some forces to the north, and we will do that. Primarily for defensive purposes but also to bring the (displaced) residents back home,” Netanyahu said.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from northern Israel which has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanese Hezbollah militants since the war in Gaza began.
Netanyahu said he would not agree to any deal that stipulates an end to the war in Gaza, indicating that he was open to a “partial” deal that would facilitate the return of some hostages still held there, if not all.
“The goal is to return the kidnapped and uproot the Hamas regime in Gaza,” he said.
United States officials have raised doubts over Israel’s goal of completely destroying Hamas, and on Wednesday Israel’s top army spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said Hamas cannot be eliminated.
“To say that we are going to make Hamas disappear is to throw sand in people’s eyes,” Hagari said.
He said Hamas is an ideology and “we cannot eliminate an ideology.”
When asked about the post-war situation in Gaza, Netanyahu said Israel will have a role to play in the near term.
“It’s clear military control in the foreseeable future will be ours,” he said, before giving his most-detailed comments yet on the post-war situation.
Earlier this month two war cabinet members Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot left the government after Netanyahu failed to deliver a post-war plan for Gaza as demanded by Gantz.
The United States has also pointed to the need for a post-war plan that would help ensure Israel’s long-term security.
“We also want to create a civilian administration, if possible with local Palestinians, and maybe with external backing from countries in the region, to manage humanitarian supply and later on civilian affairs in the Strip,” the prime minister said.
“At the end of it, there’s two things that need to happen: we need ongoing demilitarization by the IDF (army) and the establishment of a civilian administration.”
The Gaza Strip has been gripped by more than eight months of war since Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants took 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.
Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has since killed at least 37,598 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have consistently rallied against Netanyahu and his government, demanding early elections and a deal to return hostages.
But Netanyahu said that if his government falls, “a left-wing government will be established here, which will do something immediately: establish a Palestinian state that is a Palestinian terrorist state that will endanger our existence.”


Jordanian, German officials discuss ties, Palestinian cause

Jordanian, German officials discuss ties, Palestinian cause
Updated 23 June 2024
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Jordanian, German officials discuss ties, Palestinian cause

Jordanian, German officials discuss ties, Palestinian cause
  • Safadi expressed his gratitude for Germany’s support in managing the Syrian refugee crisis

AMMAN: Jordan’s lower house speaker met the vice president of the German parliament on Sunday to discuss ties, Jordan News Agency reported.

In his meeting with Aydan Ozoguz, Speaker Ahmed Safadi highlighted the “strong and multifaceted” ties between Jordan and Germany, and called for increased cooperation.

He expressed his gratitude for Germany’s support in managing the Syrian refugee crisis, highlighting the significant burden Jordan bears due to regional instability and the influx of refugees.

During the meeting, Safadi warned that the failure to achieve the Palestinian right to an independent state remains a major source of regional instability.

Ozoguz agreed on the importance of German-Jordanian relations and said that her visit aimed to build mutual trust. She highlighted Germany’s commitment to collaborating with Jordan to develop viable solutions to regional challenges, with the ultimate goal of achieving a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Khaldoun Haynam, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, also addressed the meeting, highlighting the importance of adequate international support for Jordan.

He praised Jordan’s efforts in assisting refugees and urged the international community to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees so that it can continue to help Palestinian refugees.