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Oil money meets AI

Discussion of the global race for AI dominance and influence often centers on the United States and China, with Europe forcing itself into the discussion with groundbreaking regulation and the occasional influential startup. But in the Persian Gulf, wealthy states are just as serious about getting in on this powerful — and lucrative — technology.

The New York Times reported last week that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plans to create a $40 billion fund solely to invest in artificial intelligence. If this comes to fruition, it will make the Saudi government the world’s largest investor in AI. Next door, the United Arab Emirates has similar ambitions. Through Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council, the government poured millions into a powerful large language model called Falcon, only to release it open-source in September. Meanwhile, OpenAI chief Sam Altman has reportedly sought upwards of $7 trillion from funders including the UAE for a global chip startup.

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FILE PHOTO: Somali supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hold Turkey's flag during celebrations after the second round of the presidential election, in Mogadishu, Somalia May 29, 2023.

REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somalia signs defense pact with Turkey amid tensions with Ethiopia

Turkey confirmed Thursday that it has signed a defense agreement with Somalia. The deal commits Ankara to defending Somali waters and to helping Mogadishu build up its navy against “foreign interference” – a veiled reference to rising tensions with Ethiopia.

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AI for good, AI for bad: Bringing balance to the force
AI for good, AI for bad: Bringing balance to the force | Global Stage

AI for good, AI for bad: Bringing balance to the force

AI comes with a lot of stigma. Popular storylines in books and movies have trained us to see artificial intelligence as a bad actor that can take control over humanity and destroy us, says Omar Sultan al Olama, the UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

Minister al Olama, speaking in a GZERO Global Stage discussion from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, highlights that in the UAE, AI development isn't just focused on productivity and economic gains, but on its potential to improve quality of life. One way to flip the script on AI as simply a scary tech straight out of a sci-fi thriller? Create more content that sheds light on AI's upsides, says al Olama.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks at a joint press conference with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup in Seoul, South Korea, 31 January 2023.

Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Pentagon leak fallout, Manhattan DA sues House Republicans, new source of tension in Ethiopia

The fog of leaks

Fallout continues from the leak of secret US documents related to the war in Ukraine. The leaked info suggests that Egypt, one of the world’s largest recipients of US military aid, planned to secretly supply Russia with tens of thousands of rockets for use in Ukraine and that the United Arab Emirates, also a key US ally, would help Russia work against US and UK intelligence. Egypt and the UAE say these reports are false.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023.

Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Russia strikes Ukraine amid dueling wartime trips, Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ showdown, Israeli settlements U-turn

After Xi-Putin summit, Moscow strikes Ukraine

Over the past few days, Vladimir Putin pulled out all the stops to entertain his "good old friend" Xi Jinping in Moscow, during what was perhaps the most geopolitically significant bilateral summit of the year so far.

Seven-course dinner — check. Insanely long red carpet at the Kremlin — check. Putin doing Xi the rare courtesy of showing up on time — check.

But beyond the pomp, ничего особенного (nothing much). The summit ended with a joint press conference featuring boilerplate statements about Sino-Russian cooperation. There was no mention of China potentially supplying arms to Russia, and no call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, although Putin did say that Xi's peace plan could be a first step toward a negotiated settlement “once the West and Kyiv are ready for it."

But then right after Xi's visit on Wednesday, the Kremlin launched fresh drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, killing at least four people in a residential area outside Kyiv.

While President Volodymyr Zelensky has so far tried to remain open to Beijing's intervention, he tweeted that "every time someone tries to hear the word 'peace' in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes."

Is Putin feeling emboldened? From Putin's perspective, a visit from Xi, who’s been something of a homebody himself since the pandemic, lets Putin show that although the US and its allies have blackballed him, he is still far from isolated globally – and that the Russia-China friendship “without limits” is an axis of power Washington has to reckon with.

We're watching to see how — or if — Beijing responds to the latest onslaught that comes on the heels of Xi's whirlwind diplomacy.

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People tour a Sana'a graveyard for Houthi fighters killed in fighting during a 2016 ceasefire in Yemen's civil war.

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Is Yemen on the road to peace?

A powerful country invades its neighbor. The conflict quickly becomes a brutal proxy war. A horrific humanitarian crisis ensues. While much of the world’s attention has been on Ukraine for the past few months, the civil war in Yemen is now in its eighth year. But in recent weeks signs of hope for peace have emerged, if faintly. What is the latest in a grinding conflict that has provoked what the UN calls "the world's worst humanitarian crisis"?

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Paige Fusco

De-facto ruler no more — UAE’s new president is ambitious, sophisticated

One of the world’s richest men and arguably the most powerful political player in the Arab world has ascended to the presidency of the Middle East’s most dynamic Islamic state. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, 61, was appointed on Saturday as the ruler of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, after the death Friday of Sheikh Khalifa, his elder half brother.

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Models of oil barrels and a pump jack are seen in front of EU and Russia flag colors.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We’re Watching: Drawdown pledge, Europe veers away from Russia, Ethiopian peace hopes dashed, a Gulf non-starter

Fighting continues despite Russia’s drawdown pledge

The Pentagon said it believes the Kremlin was starting to reposition some of its troops away from Kyiv. But Russia continued to pound the Ukrainian capital with airstrikes and artillery while maintaining its ferocious bombardment of the besieged port city of Mariupol. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that bilateral peace talks were making “substantial progress,” but Ukrainian officials immediately disputed his claim that Kyiv had accepted the loss of Crimea and the Donbas as a “resolved question.” President Zelensky late Wednesday released a new video in which he said "we don't believe in fancy rhetorical constructions, we believe in what happens on the battlefield."

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