S. Arabia not to hand over suspects in Khashoggi case

By Hussein Mahmoud Ragab Elkabany, Zeynep Hilal Karyagdi

RIYADH (AA) – Saudi Arabia ruled out extraditing suspects in the Jamal Khashoggi case to Turkey late Sunday, the country's foreign minister said.

"We don’t extradite our citizens," Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir said in the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) news conference when he was asked about the arrest warrants.

Al-Jubeir said that those who are guilty have been referred to the Saudi prosecutor's office but he didn't comment on the legal process underlining that the prosecutor's office has its own spokesman.

In addition, he said that Saudi Arabia is open to any evidence to help the investigation and will announce every detail about this case.

An Istanbul court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for two former Saudi officials for the killing of Khashoggi.

The decision of the court came after Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office demanded arrests of Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince, and Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy intelligence chief, for their alleged involvement in the killing.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October.

After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, Saudi Arabia admitted weeks later that he was killed there, blaming his death on a group of rogue Saudi operatives.

Following a royal decree, Saudi Arabia dismissed five senior officials, including al-Qahtani and al-Asiri.

Qatari emir not to join Gulf summit in Saudi Arabia

By Mehmet Nuri Ucar and Serdar Bitmez

DOHA (AA) – The Qatari emir will not join a Gulf summit to be held in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a Qatari official told Anadolu Agency late Saturday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said that Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani won't be in the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia and only state ministers will represent Qatar in this meeting.

Qatar News Agency (QNA) said in a story that an official invitation was sent to al-Thani by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz for this summit.

The invitation was presented to Sultan Bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, Qatar's State Minister for Foreign Affairs.

A six-nation bloc of oil-rich Arab Gulf states, the GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.

In June of last year, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain collectively severed ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The Saudi-led axis also imposed an air/land/sea embargo on Qatar, which continues to vociferously deny the terror allegations.

Pompeo, Qatari defense minister meet in Washington

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Wednesday with one of Qatar's top ministers to discuss ties and security of the Middle East region.

Pompeo and Qatari Defense and Deputy Prime Minister Khalid al-Attiyah conferred about the upcoming U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in a sit-down at the State Department.

This dialogue was inaugurated in January and sought to enhance cooperation between Washington and Doha on defense, counterterrorism, trade and investment.

The two sides also talked about the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and how it could play into a strategic alliance in the region.

"The Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister discussed working toward a Middle East Strategic Alliance, anchored by a united GCC, to advance prosperity, security, and stability in the region," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The GCC is a six-nation bloc of oil-rich Arab Gulf states, composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE collectively severed ties with Doha last June, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The Saudi-led axis also imposed an air, land and sea embargo on Qatar, which continues to vociferously deny the allegations.

Pompeo and al-Attiyah also talked about the expansion of Al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, which hosts personnel from the U.S. and British Royal Air forces.

GCC chief hopes for restart of Yemen peace talks

By Hussein Mahmoud Ragab Elkabany and Zeynep Tufekci

RIYADH (AA) – The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said late Friday that he hopes for the restart of peace talks in Yemen with the participation of the Houthis and a halt to the fighting.

In a phone call, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al Zayani told UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths that he supported his efforts to rekindle negotiations, according to a statement from the GCC.

He added that the peace talks would serve as a “very good chance” to relieve the Yemeni people of their grievances and reach a political solution.

Al Zayani also called on other countries to support Griffiths’ efforts, the statement said.

Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

UPDATE – GCC, Egypt, Jordan military chiefs meet in Kuwait City

UPDATES WITH CENTCOM CHIEF’S REMARKS

By Mohamed Abdul-Ghaffar

KUWAIT CITY (AA) – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) army chiefs-of-staff met with their counterparts from Egypt and Jordan in Kuwait City on Wednesday to discuss military and defense cooperation.

The meeting was also attended by General Joseph L. Votel, chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

The gathering comes two days after another meeting in Kuwait attended by GCC army chiefs-of-staff.

That meeting saw the participation of Qatar’s army chief for the first time since mid-2017, when a four-nation Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia collectively cut relations with Doha.

According to a statement released by the Kuwaiti military, Wednesday’s follow-up meeting was held to discuss regional security and the fight against terrorism.

Wednesday’s gathering has prompted speculation in Arab media about the possible emergence of an “Arab NATO Alliance”.

Kuwaiti daily Alrai quoted unnamed U.S. Defense Department sources as saying the meeting was aimed at “enhancing military ties between participant countries and discussing plans for dealing with any emergency, crisis or circumstance, such as the eruption of a regional war”.

During the meeting, Votel called on GCC states to set aside their differences and join forces in the face of what he described as the “Iranian threat” and extremist groups operating in the region, Kuwait's official news agency (KUNA) reported.

Votel also stressed the need to integrate GCC militaries into a joint framework — to include the U.S. — with a view to meeting common regional challenges.

A six-nation bloc of oil-rich Arab Gulf states, the GCC is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.

GCC, Egypt, Jordan military chiefs meet in Kuwait City

By Mohamed Abdul-Ghaffar

KUWAIT CITY (AA) – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) army chiefs-of-staff met with their counterparts from Egypt and Jordan in Kuwait City on Wednesday to discuss military and defense cooperation.

The gathering, also reportedly attended by officials from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), comes two days after another meeting in Kuwait of GCC army chiefs-of-staff.

That meeting saw the participation of Qatar’s army chief for the first time since mid-2017, when a four-nation Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabi collectively severed relations with Doha.

According to a statement issued by the Kuwaiti military, Wednesday’s follow-up meeting was held to discuss regional security and the fight against terrorism, among other things.

Wednesday’s meeting prompted speculation in Arab media about the possible emergence of an “Arab NATO Alliance”.

Private Kuwaiti daily Alrai quoted unnamed U.S. Defense Department sources as saying that the meeting was aimed at “enhancing military ties between participant countries and discussing plans for dealing with any emergency, crisis or circumstance, including the eruption of regional wars”.

GCC chiefs-of-staff meet in Kuwait City

RIYADH (AA) – The 15th meeting of the Supreme Committee of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Chiefs-of-Staff kicked off Monday in Kuwait City.

Notably, Qatari Chief-of-Staff Ghanim bin Shaheen al-Ghanim attended the event for the first time since mid-2017, which saw a major crisis in inter-Arab relations pitting Qatar against a four-nation bloc led by Saudi Arabia.

According to Kuwait’s official KUNA news agency, Monday’s get-together follows a series of earlier meetings attended by GCC chiefs-of-staff aimed at enhancing coordination between GCC militaries.

At the meeting, KUNA reported, participants “discussed topics pertaining to the implementation of joint military action and means of integrating the armed forces of GCC member states”.

In June of last year, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain collectively severed ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The Saudi-led axis also imposed an air/land/sea embargo on Qatar, which continues to vociferously deny the terror allegations.

A six-nation bloc of oil-rich Arab Gulf states, the GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.

Turkish firms' resilience bode well for 2018: Moody's

By Gokhan Kurtaran

LONDON (AA) – Moody’s rating agency said Wednesday Turkish companies gave good signs for 2018 despite currency volatility and political risks.

The agency said most rated Turkish companies had healthy balance sheets, strong liquidity and market leadership positions, as well as good records of operating in a challenging environment.

“Export-oriented manufacturing companies in Turkey will see growth opportunities as demand in Europe increases, supported by a weaker lira,” Rehan Akbar, vice president and senior analyst, said.

“Companies in the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors will be buoyed by improvements in the security situation but the environment will remain potentially volatile.”

However, currency volatility and political risk contributed to next year’s negative outlook for Turkish companies.

Higher oil prices and a lack of clarity on policy direction and structural reform also added to the poor forecast.

South African firms face similar difficulties, the agency reported.

“Limited clarity on policy direction and on the pace of implementation of structural economic reforms, as well as political risks and high currency volatility drive the negative 2018 outlook for Turkish companies,” Akbar said.

“Similarly, the negative outlook for firms in South Africa reflects continued political and policy uncertainty and depressed business and consumer demand.”

Moody’s said corporate growth would be moderately lower in Turkey next year as 2017’s temporary stimulation policies end.

According to Moody’s, the fragile macroeconomic environment as well as political and policy uncertainty heightened risks for companies in South Africa.

However, the rising price of oil and committed government spending allowed a positive 2018 prediction for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, the agency reported.

“Improving oil prices, which are narrowing fiscal deficits, as well as an ongoing commitment to public spending and a supportive stance towards government-related issuers will underpin the stable outlook on GCC companies over the next 12 months,” Akbar added.

GCC summit convenes in Kuwait absent four leaders

By Ahmed al-Masri

DOHA, Qatar (AA) – The 38th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit kicked off Tuesday in Kuwait City attended by the emirs of both Kuwait and Qatar, while the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Oman all failed to show up.

The event saw the lowest level of representation at a GCC summit since the council was established in 1981, with only two heads of state — Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani — in attendance.

The GCC is comprised of six member states: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

At the summit’s opening session, the Kuwaiti emir called for the creation of a committee tasked with amending GCC bylaws with a view to establishing viable mechanisms for resolving disputes between member states.

"Over the past six months, we have suffered painful events and negative developments," he said.

"But thanks to the wisdom of my fellow GCC leaders, we have been able to restore a degree of calm and will continue to play a moderating role," he added.

"We are meeting today in hopes of maintaining this role with a view to meeting our people’s hopes and aspirations," the emir said.

Tuesday’s summit comes amid a months-long crisis in inter-Arab relations.

In early June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain all abruptly severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.

Led by Riyadh, the four-nation bloc also threatened to impose additional sanctions on Qatar if it failed to accept a long list of demands.

Qatar strenuously denies the accusations, describing the ongoing attempts to isolate it as a violation of international law and its national sovereignty.

Kuwait, for its part, has led mediation efforts with a view to resolving the crisis, dispatching a host of high-level emissaries to relay messages between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc of Arab states.

-Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran

Speaking at Tuesday’s GCC summit, the Kuwaiti emir also praised Saudi efforts "to arrange meetings between different Syrian opposition factions and forge a common position between opposition groups".

Regarding the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the emir praised the role being played by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, which since 2015 has been fighting Yemen’s Shia Houthi militia group.

As for the moribund Middle East peace process, the emir expressed hope that the international community would soon be able to push both Israel and the Palestinians toward a comprehensive peace deal in line with the 2002 Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative.

Regarding the situation in post-Daesh Iraq, the Kuwaiti emir stressed the need to take part in an upcoming Iraq reconstruction conference to be held in Kuwait in February of next year.

Speaking about the GCC’s relations with Shia Iran, the emir said that Iranian actions in the region "stand contrary to the rules of international law that govern relations between sovereign states, namely good neighborliness, respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs".

He concluded by saying the region would never achieve stability "until all these principles are fully applied".

Doha regrets Bahrain’s move to impose visas on Qataris

DOHA, Qatar (AA) – Bahrain's decision to impose entry visas on Qatari citizens reveals its “persistence in severing ties with Gulf families in contravention of Islam”, Qatar’s permanent representative to the UN said Tuesday.

According to Qatar’s official QNA news agency, Ali Khalfan al-Mansouri said he "regrets" the decision and called it a “flagrant violation of the agreements and resolutions of the Gulf Cooperation Council”.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Monday ordered the imposition of entry visas on visitors from Qatar.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain all abruptly cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region.

The four states also threatened Qatar with additional sanctions if Doha failed to meet a long list of demands, including one for the closure of Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Qatar, however, has refused to comply, vociferously denying the accusations against it and describing Saudi-led attempts to isolate it as a breach of international law.