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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

What we’re tracking on 6 December 2017

It’s a light and generally pleasant December news day for Egypt, which with every passing day is looking saner and calmer than any of our neighbors — near or far. For those of you who, like us, have called this country home both before and after 2011: Feelsgoodman, right? (Apologies to Pepe the Frog and anyone offended by traveling into the darker recesses of our hivemind by tapping the link to learn more.)

From the first positive PMI reading in forever to IPO, M&A and investment news and the House making progress on the divisive (but necessary) Universal Healthcare Act, we have the details in Speed Round, below. But the conversation in Egypt today is more likely than not going to be about the Dumpster fire of a region in which we live:

Will Trump move the US embassy to Jerusalem today? It is now looking like it is all but certain that US President Donald Trump will announce today that he will do away with decades of US foreign policy and approve moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The move, a Trump campaign promise popular with his “base,” will effectively recognize the city as the capital of Israel and marginalize any claim by the Palestinians. Trump apparently told Arab leaders on Tuesday that he intends to move the embassy, according to Reuters. Senior US officials have said Trump is likely on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while delaying relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months.

Arab leaders oppose the move: In a phone call with Trump yesterday, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi voiced his opposition to the move, saying that Egypt abides by the status for the city laid out in international agreements, according to an Ittihadiya statement. He also warned against adopting any position that would complicate the regional situation. Earlier in the week, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution introduced by Egypt which condemns Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem. The warnings of “dangerous repercussions” on regional stability and the peace process were also carried by King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, the latter being particularly sensitive as his dynasty is considered the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday that the US should not take any measures that would alter Jerusalem’s legal and political status.

French President Emmanuel Macron also warned Trump against the move on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

Not sure what to make of all this? The New York Times and Bloomberg both have you covered with their respective pieces on the history of the Jerusalem conflict.

New Saudi-Emirati alliance to reshape the Gulf? A summit of GCC leaders in Kuwait fizzled yesterday and ended one day early after the UAE and Saudi — two of Egypt’s most stalwart allies on the global stage — said they are launching an economic and military partnership. The UAE and Saudi said they are establishing a “joint cooperation committee” that will coordinate activities in “all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields.” The announcement, made hours before GCC leaders met for the first time since the Arab Quartet of Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt slapped a regional embargo on Qatar, essentially scuppered the two-day GCC summit. Bloomberg notes that that roly-poly Qatari guy who inherited his country was the only head of state to show other than the Kuwaiti host. UAE state news agency WAM made the announcement of the alliance here. The story is getting solid coverage in the Financial Times. Al Arabia and the Guardian also have offerings.

Also in the region yesterday, the Financial Times notes that KSA signed an agreement with Nasdaq “to upgrade the country’s financial markets infrastructure, another step towards its long-term goal of diversifying its economy.” Bloomberg, meanwhile, reports that settlement talks with some 159 people in detention on graft charges are expected to conclude “in weeks.” And the melodrama continued in Lebanon yesterday as Saad Al Hariri officially withdrew his resignation, Reuters notes.

Bahrain, the UAE and Tunisia have made the European Union’s 17-country tax haven blacklist. Also making an appearance on the EU’s first-ever list are Turkey (enjoy it, Erdogan) and Switzerland. Some 47 other countries have been “put on notice.” The EU says all 17 countries fall short of international standards and haven’t offered “sufficient commitments” that they will make changes. No EU countries are on the list, prompting widespread criticism outside the union and from left-leaning outfits including the Guardian. You can read the EU’s announcement here (pdf) (written in High Eurocratese). Otherwise, the story is getting wide international pickup, with offerings from the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Reuters worth checking out.

Before you ask: Egypt is not on the list. The banking financial industries have rigorous KYC procedures in place and is fully cooperative in the international fight against money laundering and tax evasion after doing time on the FATF’s black list back in the early 2000s. Just ask anyone who has ever walked into a branch to update their personal information and even remotely looked like they might carry a second passport…

Closer to home: Mubarak-era Dakhliya boss Habib El Adly is back in custody. The former Interior Minister (recently reported by the New York Times to have been advising Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman) has been located and apprehended, the Interior Ministry said in a statement picked up by Al Masry Al Youm. The move ends months of speculation on where the fugitive might be after failing to attend a sentencing hearing in April. The court had ordered Adly and two other ministers to pay EGP 1.95 bn in restitution for corruption charges, according to verdict documents obtained by Reuters. Adly is due to appear in court in January for an appeal hearing.

A delegation from the US Transportation Security Administration will wraproutine inspections of Cairo International Airport today, according to Al Mal. The delegation focused on security and customs procedures.

PSA- Look out for a bit of rain in Cairo and Alexandria today, as winter really takes grip and temperatures hover in the 12-14°C range, the national weather service warns. Other forecasts call for overcast skies and highs of 18°C.

Elsewhere today: Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics, which take place in February, on the grounds that it has engaged in systematic doping. You can read the IOC’s announcement here.

And finally: Are you looking down the barrel of a long-haul flight? If you’re like most of the folks we know, you’ve watched everything worth watching on your customary airline(s). Rolling Stone has your back with its list of the 20 Best TV Shows of 2017, many of which are downloadable to your iPad before you leave home.

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