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What We're Watching: UAE-Saudi rivalry, South Sudan turns ten, Malaysian PM under pressure

Gulf grows between UAE and Saudi Arabia: Global oil prices surged this week to a six-year high after talks between the world's biggest oil-producing countries broke down. So what happened exactly? Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, usually close allies, are at loggerheads over how to boost OPEC oil production in the wake of the pandemic-induced economic crisis: the Saudis, along with the Russians, have proposed extending curbs on oil output levels for another eight months — a proposal vehemently rejected by the Emiratis. Abu Dhabi, for its part, has invested a lot to boost its output capacity, and now that global demand is up again it wants to renegotiate its production quotas within the OPEC framework. Riyadh, on the other hand, wants to cut supply levels so that prices remain high. It's a rare public spat between the two countries, whose leaders — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed — enjoy a close personal bond, though a rivalry has been deepening in recent years as both try to establish their kingdoms as the top economic hub — and regional power — in the Gulf region.

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What We’re Watching: Polish abortion protests, US stops Saudi/UAE arms sales, GameStop’s wild run

Poland abortion showdown: Poland's conservative government has moved ahead with controversial restrictions on abortion that set the stage for the return of large protests. The new rules, which prohibit abortion even in cases of severe fetal abnormalities, were first approved by a constitutional tribunal last fall, prompting hundreds of thousands of protesters led by women's groups to hit the streets in the largest demonstrations since the fall of communism in 1989. Faced with that backlash, the government delayed implementing the new rules for several months before abruptly changing course on Wednesday. Even before the new rules, Poland had some of the tightest restrictions on abortion in Europe — last year barely 1,000 women in Poland had the procedure done, with fetal abnormalities accounting for almost all of those cases. Abortion has become a lightning-rod issue in a deeply Catholic country that is increasingly split between the conservative rural areas that form the government's voter base, and liberal big cities where the opposition is strong. We are watching the streets of Warsaw and Krakow to see what happens next.

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UAE's Etihad to launch direct flights to Tel Aviv next year

November 16, 2020 4:22 PM

ABU DHABI (AFP) - Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates' national carrier, announced on Monday (Nov 16) it will start direct flights to Israel in March next year after the countries recent agreement to normalise ties.

Why is Mike Pompeo in the Middle East?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a very important mission right now. This week he is visiting four countries in the Middle East and Africa. Two of them, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, have recently moved to normalize ties in a historic deal recently brokered by the Trump administration. The other two — Sudan and Bahrain — are rumored to be looking at forming closer ties with Jerusalem as well.

What is it that each country involved wants out of Pompeo's trip? Is this really just about building a united Israeli-Arab front against Iran or are there other interests at work? Here's a look at the key players.

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Jakarta tight-lipped on Mid-East accord so far

August 15, 2020 5:00 AM

Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, has been tight-lipped about the United States-brokered diplomatic accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Quick Take: Normalizing Israel & UAE relations

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

You may have seen the big news, that the United States facilitating normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, one of the Gulf monarchies. It is a real change in the way we think about the geopolitics of the Middle East. And it just shows how much times have changed.

If you go around the Middle East and ask Arab leaders what their priorities are, they'll tell you Iran, they'll tell you ISIS, al-Qaida, they'll tell you Syria, and Libya, they'll tell you Yemen, they'll tell you domestic instability, but they will not say Israel-Palestine. And that is so different than five, 10, 20 years ago when no willingness to talk to the Israelis unless you actually had some sort of successful peace negotiations between the two. Well, what's happening is the common enemy of Iran is becoming more important, the Palestinians are becoming less important, poorly governed, less powerful, and their former erstwhile friends and supporters are saying, "eh, we've got other priorities."

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What We’re Watching: EU agrees recovery fund, Emirati lift off to Mars, Far East tests Putin

Compromise on EU pandemic relief deal: In the wee hours of Tuesday, EU leaders reached consensus on a 750 billion euro fund to help EU member states recover from the crippling coronavirus-related economic crisis. Almost five days into what was supposed to be a three-day summit in Brussels, a group of "frugal" countries, led by the Netherlands, agreed to a combination of 360 billion euros in loans and 390 billion euros in non-repayable grants that will largely benefit Italy and Spain. These two countries were the hardest hit by the pandemic, but are reluctant to embrace labor market and pension reforms in exchange for EU rescue money. Disbursement of the funds will finally not be tied to upholding EU norms on democracy and the rule of law, as Hungary and Poland had pushed for. Although the "frugal" countries won generous rebates on their contributions to the EU budget, they failed to secure clear strings attached for big-spending recipients to get the money. Any deal is subject to parliamentary approval in all EU member states, so it will still be a long time until anyone sees any of the EU relief cash.

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UAE to invest at least $4b in Indonesia's energy infrastructure

January 14, 2020 5:00 AM

Companies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will invest at least US$3 billion (S$4 billion) in energy projects in Indonesia, ranging from oil refineries to infrastructure for electricity, said a member of the Indonesian delegation accompanying President Joko Widodo on his two-day visit to Abu Dhabi.

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