Saudi, UAE announce raft of joint economic and defence deals

Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Abu Dhabi counterpart Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan meet at the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah.

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have unveiled a raft of economic deals, including in the defence industry, as the Gulf powerhouses look to boost ties. 

The two oil-rich Gulf nations signed 20 memoranda of understanding for over 60 joint projects to be implemented over the next five years in sectors including oil and gas, banking, nuclear energy and defence.

The projects were approved at a meeting of the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council in Jeddah Wednesday night, chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

The deals do not involve the four other nations that constitute the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and non-GCC member Egypt all broke diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 last year, imposing a sea, air and land blockade, while accusing the tiny gas-rich state of links to Islamist extremists and supporting Shiite Iran.

But Saudi and UAE say they remain committed to working within the GCC framework.

“The Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council provides the ideal model for bilateral cooperation between countries while supporting the Gulf Cooperation Council joint work system,” said a statement by the Saudi information ministry after Wednesday’s meeting.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have a combined gross domestic product of $1.06 trillion or 73 percent of the six nation GCC’s combined GDP, but their energy-reliant economies have suffered in the past four years due to the crash in oil prices.

Last year, the Saudi economy shrank 0.7 percent while UAE’s economy grew just 0.5 percent, with Abu Dhabi’s contracting 1.6 percent.

The joints projects also include investments in the petrochemical sector, unified food security projects and creating a $1.4 billion (1.2 billion euro) agricultural investment firm.

The strategy calls for setting up a joint fund for nuclear energy and a bilateral council to coordinate well over $1.3 trillion in foreign investments.