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Saudi Arabia toward the economic diversification

Middle East - Africa/Politics di

In the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia has been at the centre of intense diplomatic activities, mainly directed to make significant economic deals. It is not a coincidence that some of the actors involved are the three biggest world economies: The United States, China and Japan. Indeed, while King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has taken a six-week trip in Asia, His Energy Minister Khalid-Al Falin headed for in Washington, to meet the US President Trump at the White House.

Such an intense effort goes beyond the normal diplomatic relations, especially given that the King’s visit in Japan has been the first visit to the country by a monarch of the Middle East oil-rich countries in the past fifty years. So, what is behind this busy agenda? First and foremost, oil. For decades, the vast availability of oil combined with the harsh regulations imposed by the monarchy -which did not encourage foreign companies entering Saudi markets-  have made oil the country’s one and only source of income.

However, the recent drop in oil price has been worrying the oil-rich monarchy. IMF projection for Saudi economic growth is not more encouraging, sharply foreseeing a drop from 2% to 0.4% this year. Hence, Saudi Arabia is exploring alternative economic paths, which include attracting foreign capitals and developing other industrial sectors. The short-term strategy, indeed, sets investments and infrastructure maintenance, especially electricity and transport networks, as first priorities. In a long-term perspective, “Vision 2030” expresses goals and expectations of the nation, based on three strong pillars: leading role in the Arab and Islamic word, become a global investment powerhouse and become a global hub, thus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe.

Having said that, Saudi effort to diversify its economy is more understandable. However, it is important to analyse also the political implications that these visits and commercial agreements may have.

Let’s start with Japan, the first trip of King Salman. As mentioned above, the Saudi King arrival in the Asian island is not an ordinary event, though the Kingdom is the largest provider of oil export and the two countries have friendly relationships. But this time King Salman has decided to travel all the way to the East and meet the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders, then, agreed and signed the “Saudi-Japan Vision 2030”, a governmental project that aims to enhance the cooperation between the two countries.

By developing this project, Saudi Arabia and Japan will become equal strategic partners and Japanese companies will be given a designated zone in Saudi Arabia to allow fluid entry into the country, thus facilitating the economic partnership. The developmental projects outlined in the document include both government-related and private sector ones.

Notable names emerge with the private projects. Toyota is opting to produce cars and components in Saudi Arabia; Toyobo will cooperate in technological developments of desalination plants and several banks -i.e. Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank- will be promoting investments in the Kingdom, while Softbank Group is planning to create investment funds worth 25$ billion for technological investments.

Therefore, Japan raises as a key actor to diversify Saudi Arabian economy. However, there are also political reasons behind this stronger partnership. The Japanese government is trying to contribute to Saudi Arabia political and economic stability, which is a fundamental factor to maintain the stability in the region. The competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the leadership in the Middle East has been deteriorating security and stability in the area for a long time. Japan has friendly relations with both countries and welcomes a productive dialogue between the two powers. Helping Saudi Arabia to strengthen its economy is indeed essential to maintain some balance between the two nations, also given that the relationship with the US -traditional ally and a core pillar of Saudi foreign policy- has recently gone through a hard time.

Moving forward, or better said westwards, King Salman reached China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer as well as the third largest economy. Similarly, as for Japan, the Sunni monarchy is the primary source of China’s energy demand. The two countries have sharply deepened their relationship by signing up to 65$ billion economic and trade deals. Within this framework, the countries are promoting manufacturing and energy sectors, included downstream oil opportunities. Moreover, the deals include a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the oil firm Saudi Aramco and China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco) to look into the construction of refining and chemical plants in China. Meanwhile, Sinopec and Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) agreed upon the development of petrochemical projects both in China and Saudi Arabia.

The stronger economic relationship comes as mutually beneficial for the countries. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia may see new trade opportunities in sectors other than oil, while confirming his position as key energy partner for China; on the other, China can benefit from further Saudi investments in its markets but also for the kingdom’s strategic location in the Middle East. Indeed, Saudi political, religious and economic influence in the region is a key factor for the Chinese “One belt, one road” initiative, that aims to build connectivity and cooperation between Eurasia and China.

However, Saudi Arabia also has its strategic advantages. From a security perspective, Saudi Arabia has always strongly relied on the US and its military presence in the Gulf. However, under Obama’s administration concerns and disappointments arose, as the US failed to show a firm determination in dealing with Iranian attempts to further develop its nuclear capabilities, thus jeopardising the stability of the region. In the past, China has refrained from interfering in the Middle East issues, trying to keep a neutral position between the two rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran and stressing the importance of close consultation. Some changes occurred, though.

In 2016, China backed Bashar al-Assad, offering its military cooperation and supported Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels (A Saudi-led military coalition supports Yemen’s government). Lastly, the Chinese government signed an agreement to set the first factory for Chinese hunter-killer aerial drones in Saudi Arabia, first in the Middle East.

Is China going to replace the US in the Middle East? Perhaps it is still too early to make such an assumption, especially given the new development in Syria. However, it seems that China may and would like to play a more influential role in promoting security and stability in the region, having all the means (military and economic) to do it.

And here comes the third core piece of this puzzle: The United States. As mentioned above, Obama administration has seriously challenged the relationship between the West power and the Saudi monarchy. The major issue was the multilateral nuclear deal signed with Iran, which allowed Iran to sell its vast oil supplies more freely and solicit investment in its energy industry, increasing competition with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia. However, the new presidency has made clear its approach toward Iran, by immediately imposing additional sanctions on entities involved in the nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia visit to Washington seems to open a new phase in US-Saudi relations. While the King was busy in Asia, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and the Deputy Crowne Prince Mohammed bin Salman met President Donald Trump at the White House. As Saudi minister pointed out, US-Saudi relationship is one of the most central to global stability and now seems to be better than ever. Indeed, the two countries again align on all the major issues, such as confronting Iranian aggression and fighting ISIS, but also enjoy the benefit of a closer personal bond between his royal highness, the Deputy Crown Prince and President Trump.

At the economic level, new investment programs are focused on energy, industry, infrastructure and technology. According to the Financial Times, Saudi Arabia is interested in investing up to $200 billion in US infrastructure, which is a core pillar of Trump’s agenda. As Falih explains, “The infrastructure program of President Trump and his administration is something that we’re interested in because it broadens our portfolio and it opens a new channel for secure, low-risk yet healthy return investments that we seek”.

These are only some of the economic negotiations and deals that Saudi Arabia is currently conducting, but they help to understand the new economic course of the country. They represent, indeed, a “Plan B” against the drop of oil revenue and the chance to reinforce and diversify the economic capabilities of the country, which can rely on resources other than oil, such as phosphate, gold, uranium and other minerals. Developing new sectors will also attract foreign investments and create new job opportunities for a young and ambitious local population.

One of the risks of such a massive network of economic deals is the reaction that other partners may have to commitments taken with other countries. As known, commercial arrangements have political consequences and impacts. Therefore, one of the main challenges for Saudi leaders will be to pursue its economic goals, while balancing its position toward all his major allies and friend nations, especially when some of its partners are not the best friends ever.

An obvious example is China. Despite years of lack of interest for Middle East issues, China is now trying to play a bigger role in the region, as the support in Yemen and Syria but also the Chinese warship tour in the Arab Gulf (January 2017) prove. Saudi Arabia welcomes this kind of assistance, as it can help to reduce Iran’s influence in the region. However, it is important not to upset a key and historical ally, the United States. As the new administration has shown a different approach toward the main regional issues -Syria and Iran- it might be a strategic mistake to bond too closely to the new player. Indeed, this might give the impression that a new guarantor of security in the Middle East has replaced the United States, a change that President Trump may not be entirely happy with.

In conclusion, the diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy is a smart and necessary move to make. However, it goes beyond the economic sphere, as it also shapes Saudi political posture, as a regional power but also among the biggest foreign nations involved in the Middle East political struggle. It appears that the country is trying to bond closer ties with all those powers that have more interests -but also economic and military capabilities- influencing the stability and security of the region, thus trying to get the strongest support possible against its main rival, Iran. China and USA are on the spot but do not forget Russia, which has developed bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia in the past few years and has strong political and strategic interests in the Middle East. Lastly, a key factor will be the development of the Syrian war, especially after the US Tomahawk missile strike on an air base in Syria, very well welcomed by Riyadh.

It is likely that the future economic strategy of the Kingdom will follow the political and strategic needs of the country, confirming once again the strong interrelation between economic and political dimensions, but also the importance of a robust and independent economy to maintain an influential and leading role in the region.

 

Paola Fratantoni

Focus on Estonia: Chapter 3

Europe/Policy/Politics di

The celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the EU foundation held in Rome during the last weekend, gives us the opportunity to talk about Estonia, as we promised in our previous articles, from an european point of view.  

As we mentioned, Estonia is holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2017, starting from july, and taking over this job from Malta. This means that Estonia will be responsible for defining the Council’s positions, while taking into account the interests of all member States and remaining neutral at the same time.

Estonia will act as the first country of its &trio&, in partnership in the next 2018, with Bulgaria and Austria. We described what the &trio& in other previous occasions. This estonian &european& task will end while the country will start its centennial anniversary in the mentioned 2018 (in effects, Estonian consider the period under the Soviet Union like a military occupation; and also a good part of the international community recognizes that their history, as an indipendent State, never stopped during that period).The Estonian Permanent Representation to EU

While new legislation is normally initiated by the European Commission, it is negotiated and adopted by the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of member states, and the European Parliament: national ministers from each country meet at Council meetings to take decisions at the political level. The most important rule is that the meetings are chaired by the Minister of the country holding the EU presidency, and this procedure also works at the strategical groups level and at the techinical subgroups level (the so called working parties).

During the presidency, Estonia will be responsible for leading the work of nearly 200 working parties in both Brussels and Tallinn, organizing the work of the Council and working parties, developing agendas for meetings, trying to achieve common positions trough the single different opinions, while chairing the meetings and negotiating. As leader of the Council, Estonia will have to face the Commission and the Parliament in negotiations.

All the issues which the Presidency will focus on comes from the past; but each Presidency generally tries to add something more, something specific that should be remembered at the political and legislative level.

From official sources, we read that the Baltic republic will focus on the single and digital markets, the energy union and the closer integration of the Eastern partners into Europe. They also want to promote and disseminate e-solutions across the Union and support the information society in EU policy areas (as we said, in our first intervention, Estonia is the most “e-educated” country in Europe).

It has been planned that approximately 20 high-level meetings will be held in Estonia, during the semester (JHA and defense/security events included). In addition, while the majority of meetings and working meetings will take place in Brussels, on the other hand, Estonia is going to host nearly 200 different events, whose scale of levels will be different, with an expected total of 20,000 to 30,000 international guests. So, it’s a fact that this future and temporary leader will increase its visibility in the fields of culture, business, information technology, tourism, education and research, raising in the meanwhile all issues which are important for Estonians.

Organizing the Presidency also means increasing the country’s capacity to have a say and assert its interests and objectives in Europe and elsewhere. The Government already declared that the semester will not be an one-off effort, but the work done and the related investments are supposed to bring long-term benefits for the country.

This strategical work starts from the past. Since 2012, the Government of this smart and high-technological country formed a commission responsible for the preparations for the presidency, chaired by the Secretary of State and started to recruit and train the necessary staff, organizing the above mentioned unofficial ministerial meetings and other high-level events.

c-justus lipsius ilustracka_mensiaTogether with the Committee of Estonia 100, which is not obviously related to the semester, they prepared the political and legislative time table of the Presidency, with the aim to earn time and save money and efforts in order to jointly implement an international programme in foreign countries to introduce Estonia and Estonian culture.

Approximately 100 officials and support staff will supplement the existing staff of the Estonian Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels.

This demonstrates that this IT-high-specialized country, formerly governed by the Soviet Union, is now playing an important role in its history and in all the European main issues. What we’ve tried to show in these chapters is that Estonia represents a modern country, available to host international institutions, open to new fundamental political experiences, like the Presidency and the celebrations of its centennial anniversary.

In the next chapter we will focus on the NATO in Estonia, and the “estonian NATO” seen by Russia.

Focus on Estonia

Policy/Politics di

estonia (1)Not everybody knows in a deep manner that lovely and small country settled in the far northeastern corner of Europe, very close to the Russian borders: Estonia. A former soviet baltic Republic, with nothing to do with the marxist or leninist revolution. A country speaking a very poethic language, with finno-ugric roots and balanced vowels in the words. A small country, as mentioned, but with a very large and advanced IT infrastructure, where Skype was born and – also according to Wikipedia – it is very usual to find everywhere free wi-fi hotspots and also aged peolpe is used to buy, to vote (since 2005 they’ve been voting online for their politicians), to live a better and more confortable life using PCs and mobiles. Someone calls it e-Stonia.

estoniaEstonia, which is now celebrating its 99th indipendence anniversary (from Russia). In reality, we know that Russians occupied the estonian territory also after the WWII, after a short period of nazi militay occupation. But they’ve been always celebrating since 1918, because they never felt as part of the Soviet Union. A small country, with a strong patriotic pride – bigger than others – that they defend also from the finnish neighbors: their languages are very similar, but they don’t really like when a finnish guy, moving in Tallinn, wants to talk in finnish and not in estonian. You must speak estonian. If you are not able to, english is an asset.

Finland and Estonian are actually good friends. They are 30 minutes far (by plane). And a ferry boat continuously links Tallinn and Helsinki every single day.

But this european country is not only a technological heaven. It is also the next EU Member State which is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union after the current maltese Presidency. As we wrote some time ago on this magazine, the Presidencies are linked in groups of three: this is called Presidency Trio; the Trio is supposed to follow an uniform policy in most of the field of action of the legislative procedures. On the 1st July 2017, Estonia is starting its adventure, leading the executive branch of the EU insitutions, and will be the first of its own “trio” (followed in 2018 by Bulgaria and Austria).

Estonia joined the Euro common currency system in 2011. The general economic and financial asset seems to be very good and the country is open to foreign investments.

Estonia hosts one of the most important european Justice and Home Affairs Agency, called eu-Lisa, founded in 2014. Ten years before, in 2004, it joined the N.A.T.O., and subsequently its soldiers started to work together with their N.A.T.O. colleagues in most of the latest peacekeeping missions (I remember them in Kosovo, in the Multinational Specialized Unit Regiment).  

Last but not least, in Tartu (the second city after the Capital), the government is hosting the Baltic Defence College, whose motto is “Ad Securitatem Patriarum” (“To secure Homelands”): isn’t it a little too much for the closest Russia?

Europeanaffairs.media will start in the next days to focus on Estonia, its insitutions, its policies announced for the  semester of Presidency. We will also concentrate on the foreign presence in the international instiutions and on the modernity of this country, which actually holds a millenary history.

Stay tuned….

European complaints against DPRK missile launches

In the early morning of yesterday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has launched a ballistic missile, another violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, including Resolution 2321 adopted in November 2016.

The DPRK’s repeated disregard of its international obligations is provocative and unacceptable. The DPRK must halt all launches using ballistic missile technology and abandon once and for all its ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, as required by the UN Security Council. We call on the DPRK not to raise tensions further and to re-engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue with the international community, in particular the Six-Party Talks“. That’s what the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) Spokeperson said, from Brussels.
The High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini will speak in the coming days to the Foreign Ministers of international partners to further discuss the international response.

DKPR’s behaviour continues to worry all the international community. Of course, Brussels seems to be so far from Pyongyang, but is a common opinion thet the nuclear tests and, generally speaking, the nuclear proliferation in the northern part of the Korean peninsula constitues a real danger for all countries.

Of course, the game hides some differents and complicated balances: first of all, the role of China, which missiles paradein facts is the only trade partner for the DKPR. Also Putin’s Russia aims to keep the remote control of the region and – despite of the Trump’s russia – fliendly policy – does not like very much the american “temporary” presence in South Korea… and also american missiles and army in the area. Anyway, the Kim’s last launch makes some doubts rise. It is not a secret that one of the Trump’s ideas for the region was to reduce the american military contingent in the peninsula. So, this launch could seriously put in danger all the plans and political efforts to reduce Uncle Sam’s troops.

According to some geopolitical studies, North Korea and South Korea will never fight – directly – one each other. This, because the goals for each contendant in a new war, beetween the two enemies, could cancel each other. The common opinion – extremely summing – is that the DKPR has a strong defensive asset and a very well-motivated army, that could easily face attacks from south also using old planes, cold-war subarines and very obsolete boats. The South Korean Army is well trained and equipped, with new systems, boats and submarines, but her weakness is in the leadership (some units are entirely directed by american officers in charge), in the ideological motivation and, of course, in the potential feeling of loneliness without a clear american guidance and support. And we all know the political scandal that recently hit the Southkorean political leadership. That’s why this missile launch, in an moment while academics started to speculate about a progressive and slow american withdrawal, change the scene of play. Of course, the launch is a muscles demonstrations, but its meaning seems to be changed.

From an european point of view, we can only wait the next days. For sure, since now, the EU has been supporting international efforts to promote peace, stability, denuclearisation and an improvement in the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Since 1998, the EU has been conducting regular political dialogue with the DPRK. The European Community established diplomatic relations in May 2001 and some EU countries have diplomatic relations with the DPRK.  As far as we can read on the official EU institutions’ websites and portals, the EU has been involved in providing assistance to some of the most vulnerable communities in the DPRK since 1195. Current activities are mainly oriented towards support for the agricultural sector and are financed under the Food Security Thematic Programme of the Development Cooperation Instrument.

Trump attacks the judiciary: the courts are too politicized

President Trump is back to attack the judiciary today during a meeting with the sheriffs and police chiefs of the largest cities of the country. Trump said that in his view the courts are too politicized and that they should be able to do their job without dealing with policy, in fact, according to Trump’s decision Robarts Judge, who has blocked her travel ban, would be contrary to the principle of separation of powers, the same charges were brought by the Democrats to the President. By next Wednesday we will know the decision of the Court of Appeals of San Francisco that must decide if reinstate the travel ban or confirm his suspension, if there will be a confirmation the government would appeal to the Supreme Court which currently has 8 members (4 Liberals and 4 Conservatives).

The agreement between Gentiloni and al-Sarraj is already null

On Wednesday the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives said that it considers a recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj to be null and void. The agreement was for cooperation and development and against clandestine migration, human trafficking and smuggling. It also included measures to strengthen border control. The anouncement was made by the Tobruk parliamentary body itself in a statement through the Al-Wasat website, which said that the presidential council and its president did not have jurisdiction to make such choices on the basis of the constitution and judicial sentences. ”An issue like that of clandestine migration, ” the statement said, ”is one of the important issues linked to the choice of the Libyan people through the representatives that they elected democratically through voting, and not the interests of individuals that do not have the trust of the House of Representatives, which is the legitimate power, nor the interests of European countries, and especially the Italian Republic.” Italy, it continued, ”is trying to get rid of the burden and the dangerous problems caused by clandestine migration at the security, economic and social level in exchange for a bit of material support that it is forced to offer to reduce the number of illegal migrants.”

Moscow ready for dialogue with International partners but won’t let them infringe its interests

BreakingNews @en/Defence/Politics di

During his annual address to Russian lawmakers, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is ready for dialogue with its international partners, but will not allow them to infringe on its interests or meddle in its decision-making. He noted, however, that Russia is ready to participate in solving global and regional crises when necessary. Putin also said that Russia’s policy towards its Asian partners, China and Japan, is not opportunistic or a response to the deterioration in US-relations, but based on Russia’s plans for long-term development. In his speech, the Russian President also urged the United States to join Russia to jointly fight international terrorism. It has been the 23rd such event in Russia’s modern history and the 13th speech delivered by Vladimir Putin.

The impeachment vote against South Korea’s President will be postponed

BreakingNews @en/Far East/Politics di

An impeachment vote against South Korea’s scandal-hit President will be postponed by at least a week, lawmakers said on Wednesday, after Park Geun-Hye announced she was willing to stand down early. Lawmakers from Park’s own party had backed moves to impeach her this Friday, but now want the issue discussed in Parliament before holding a vote, likely to be scheduled a week later.

Yemen: the forgotten crisis

Middle East - Africa/Politics di

The 48-hour cease-fire in place from November 19 to 21 between the Al Houthis and forces loyal to President Hadi in Yemen has failed. Since the beginning of the truce, violations have been committed by both sides, thus an extension resulting impossible. Similarly, the ceasefire scheduled for the night of 17 November did not take place, following the clashes occurred in the city of Taiz, which had killed more than twenty people.

If the end of hostilities on the ground is still a dream, it is even more unlikely for a political settlement -which should end a conflict that has affected the country for 20 months- to be set in the near term. In the past few weeks, negotiations and meetings have taken place between the US Secretary of State John Kerry, the special UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and mediating countries such as Oman in order to deal with the conflicting parties and to draw up an acceptable plan to restore stability and security in the country.

Several proposals have been rejected, including the last one presented by Kerry, according to which President Hadi would relinquish his power to a new vice president in return for the Al Houthis withdrawal from all major cities and the handover of their weapons to third neutral parties.

To date, indeed, no agreement has been achieved, considering the reluctance of both the players to give up those power and control they have in the country. On the one hand, President Hadi refuses to relinquish his powers; on the other, the Al Houthis want to keep their weapons. This allows them to maintain a certain power in national politics, making them a good candidate to be a new Hezbollah in Yemen -not just a major political opponent but also a militarily strong one.  Although international attention is currently focused on other issues, the conflict in Yemen becomes day after day more relevant in regional and international political games.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the conflict, in November 2011, when following a popular uprising, the then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to give in power to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The new president, however, did not manage to deal with several domestic issues, such as unemployment, corruption, hunger, terrorism, leaving the population at the mercy of plagues that eliminate any hope to restore stability in the country. In September 2014, with the support of former President Saleh, the rebel group known as Al Houthis, Zaidi Shia-led political-religious movement, took control of the northern region of the country, entering the capital Sana’a. The then-President Hadi was put under house arrest and forced to flee to Aden the following month.

Confrontations started between two factions: the Al Houthis, allied with Saleh, who control the capital Sana’a and the internationally recognized government of President Hadi, based in Aden. Supporters and allies on both sides complete the bigger picture. In March of 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition began an air campaign against rebel positions, in order to restore Hadi government. Since then more than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict and living conditions in the country have deteriorated drastically, resulting in a humanitarian crisis.

On the other side, though repeatedly denied, there seems to be Iran’s political and military support, something similar to what we have already seen in Lebanon with Hezbollah.  According to Brigadier General Ahmad Asseri, spokesman for the Saudi coalition, a link would exist between the terrorist group Hezbollah and the Houthis. Members of the Lebanese group have been seen among the Shiite militants in Yemen.

Moreover, the terrorist groups of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (ISIS) add chaos to this picture, exploiting the instability of the region to pursue their political agenda. Indeed, they managed to take control of some areas in the southern provinces (government-controlled area), making even more difficult to restore security in the country.

It is clear that the conflict in Yemen is not limited to the political parties on the ground, but affects several external actors and is connected to the political dynamics of the Middle East. Once again, in fact, we see the couple Saudi Arabia-Iran, fighting for hegemony in the region and the division between a Shiite component, currently controlling the North of the country, and a Sunni-dominated south region, headed by Hadi government.

It should be added that the conflict in Yemen in not just a theatre for the proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, but also a destabilizing factor for the international trade. Houthis’ missile arsenal, indeed, guarantees the rebels an effective means to hit ships transiting the Strait of Bab el-Mandab, one of the busiest routes of world trade. About 4 million barrels of oil a day pass through this strait; therefore, the security in this area is a necessary condition not only for regional actors but also for other stakeholders, such as European countries and the United States, heavily dependent on energy coming from this region.

It is more understandable why negotiations held by US and UN include the handover of rebels’ weapons to neutral units; similarly, it is clear why the Houthis want to maintain at least their light weapons, as a key tool to keep power in national, regional and global dynamics. Consultations will continue in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible. However, it has to be seen how the new US administration will deal with this issue. According to Donald Trump, the United States should stay out of conflicts that do not directly threaten its national interests and the war in Yemen does not seem to be a priority.

 

Paola Fratantoni

 

Belarus President will visit Azerbaijan next 28-29 November

BreakingNews @en/Politics di

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko will pay an official visit to Azerbaijan on 28-29 November, the Belarus president’s press-service said in a statement on Nov. 25. While in Azerbaijan Alexander Lukashenko is expected to meet with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev for face-to-face negotiations and expanded-participation negotiations. A number of international documents will be signed as a result of the talks.

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