Iran bans imports from Saudi Arabia, faces Saudi boycotts

admin   •   January 8, 2016   •   2384

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at the International Institute of Strategic Studies conference ''Manama-Dialogue 2015 at Manama, Bahrain October 31, 2015. REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at the International Institute of Strategic Studies conference ”Manama-Dialogue 2015 at Manama, Bahrain October 31, 2015.
REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED

Iran and Saudi Arabia took further steps to sever commercial ties on Thursday, intensifying a feud between the regional rivals, as Tehran announced a ban on imports from Saudi Arabia and Saudi groups called for boycotts of Iranian products.

Iran’s government said it had forbidden imports from Saudi Arabia after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday morning, according to state news agency IRNA.

The cabinet also reaffirmed a ban on Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca – which are both lucrative for Saudi Arabia and important to Muslims – first imposed in April in response to an alleged sexual assault on two male Iranians by Saudi airport guards.

Trade between Saudi Arabia and Iran is small compared with the size of their economies, but tens of thousands of Iranians travel to the kingdom every year to complete the haj as well as Umrah pilgrimages made outside of haj season.

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday over the storming of its embassy in Tehran, intensifying a diplomatic crisis set in motion by the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric the previous day.

Foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters on Monday the kingdom was halting air traffic and trade links with the Islamic republic, although none of the few Saudi companies with interests in Iran has yet announced changes to their operations.

Savola, the kingdom’s largest food products company, which earns some 13 percent of total revenues from Iran, said on Tuesday it plans to maintain its investments there despite the standoff.

But it and the few other Saudi companies doing business in Iran faced increasing public pressure over the course of the week, as consumer and business groups called for boycotts of Iranian products.

Chamber of commerce leaders told local daily newspaper al-Riyadh that Saudi businesses should replace Iranian goods with alternatives from other Arab and Islamic countries.

A trade boycott would cause the kingdom little economic harm, they said, noting that imports from Iran mainly consist of pistachio nuts and pickles.

Consumer activist group Mogatah also urged Saudi businesses to remove Iranian goods from their shelves, posting photos of Iranian products for sale in Saudi Arabia on social media along with calls to support the government’s policy.

The group scolded Swedish home goods retailer Ikea for selling a Persian carpet with a “made in Iran” label at its stores in Saudi Arabia, and applauded a local Riyadh-based carpet shop chain for deciding to end sales of Iranian rugs.

(Reporting by Katie Paul and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by David Stamp)

Saudi Arabia opens to tourists with new visa, no abaya rule

Robie de Guzman   •   September 28, 2019

Saudi Arabia threw open its doors to tourists on Friday (September 27), launching a new visa program for 49 countries and appealing to foreign companies to invest in a sector it hopes will contribute 10% of gross domestic product by 2030.

Visas will be available online for about $80 (£65), with no restrictions for unaccompanied women as in the past.

Access to the Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina is restricted. Until now, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who receive special visas to visit holy sites.

The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom has in recent years relaxed strict social codes, like segregating men and women in public places and requiring women to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas.

Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb told Reuters in an interview ahead of the official announcement that abayas will not be mandatory for women tourists but modest dress is, including at public beaches.

Khateeb said China, Japan, Europe and the United States were among the top outbound targets.

The move is part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plans to develop new industries to wean the world’s top oil exporter off crude and open up society.

Many of his reforms received international praise, but his image has been tarnished by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the arrest of critics including prominent women activists, and a nearly five-year war in Yemen where tens of thousands of people have been killed.

More details, including which countries are eligible, were expected later on Friday. (Reuters)

(Production: Nael Shyouki)

DFA says Filipino crew member of seized oil tanker now released

Robie de Guzman   •   September 27, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday reported that a Filipino sailor was among the crew members of a British-flagged and Swedish-owned tanker released by the government of Iran after weeks of captivity.

The DFA cited a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tehran about the Filipino sailor who works as the vessel’s Second Officer.

“Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos conveyed to Iranian authorities the appreciation of the Philippine Government for releasing the said Filipino crew member, who is the Second Officer of the Stena Impero, and ensuring the safety and well-being of all crew members of the Stena Impero,” the department said in a statement.

The Stena Impero was captured by Iranian forces last July 19 for accusations of violating international maritime rules while it was passing through international water in the strait of Hormuz.  

The vessel was then brought to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where it was anchored for more than two months.

In a statement, the management of Stena Impero has confirmed that its vessel has left the Iranian port and is transiting to Dubai for the crew’s disembarkation and medical de-briefing.

“The families of crew members have been informed and the company is currently making arrangements for the repatriation of its valued seafarers at the earliest possible opportunity,” Erik Hanell, president and CEO of Stena Bulk said.

Big-time oil price hike looms next week

Marje Pelayo   •   September 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Oil companies are set to impose another big-time oil price hike next week.

This means an additional P2.00/L will be imposed on the price of gasoline and more than P1.00/L on other fuel products.

Should the big-time price hike push through, the price of gasoline will increase by P2.35/L.

The price of diesel will be up by P1.80/L and kerosene will mark up by P1.75/L.

The Department of Energy (DOE) said the price hike was in relation to the recent bombing at two large oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

The incident pushed oil prices up in fear of supply shortage.

In a statement, however, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said that consumers have no reason to panic because Saudi Arabia has assured to recover their oil supply to normal at the soonest possible time.

“Hindi makikiusap ang DOE sa mga kumpanya ng langis na utay utayin ang dagdag presyo sa petrolyo sa susunod na linggo (The DOE will not ask oil companies for a gradual price hike next week),” Cusi said.

“Let market forces dictate kasi inaasahan namang babalik na sa normal ang produksyon ng langis ng Saudi Arabia kasunod ng bombing (because it is expected that oil supply will return to normal following the blast in Saudi Arabia),” he added.

The DOE assured also that the country’s oil supply is enough to last for 30 days.

Cusi said they are keen on recommending the suspension of excise tax on oil in case oil prices soar as a result of the blast in Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. — MNP (with details from Mon Jocson)

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