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Middle East

Overview

ENGAGEMENT OF THE REGION

Singapore engages the Middle East in diverse areas ranging from high-level exchanges, to economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.  Our government agencies share best practices with their Middle East counterparts in many areas, including healthcare, governance, culture and the environment.

Economic Links and Cooperation

Our intensified political exchanges have helped to promote Singapore's economic ties with the Middle East. Singapore companies, have for many years been active in a broad spectrum of sectors, including infrastructure, oil and gas, environmental technologies, logistics, tourism and retail. Trade between Singapore and the Middle East has also grown substantially in recent years, reaching S$52.8 billion in 2017.
 
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (GSFTA), which was signed on 15 December 2008 and entered into force on 1 September 2013, was an important milestone as Singapore is the first country outside of the Middle East to conclude an FTA with the GCC.
 
Elsewhere in the region, in recognition of Israel's strength in the high-tech sector, the Singapore Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation has been facilitating and supporting joint industrial R&D projects between companies from both countries.

Technical Cooperation

Singapore shares our developmental experience with Middle East countries through the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) and the work of Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE). Various ministries, statutory boards and private organisations also cooperate with their Middle East counterparts on a wide range of issues. These initiatives include but are not limited to:

  • The Strategic Leadership Programme (SLP) held since 2010, and most recently in January 2018, by Civil Service College (CSC) for Kuwait’s public sector leaders;
  • The Regional Institute of Infrastructure Development that was established at the Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat in 2012 as part of Singapore’s commitment to offer capacity building courses to Oman in infrastructure development, covering areas such as power, water and aviation;
  • Singapore’s Enhanced Technical Assistance Package (ETAP) to support the technical capacity-building efforts of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was launched in 2013, and doubled from S$5 million to S$10 million in 2016.  Hundreds of PNA officials have benefited from the ETAP.  
  • The Inaugural Joint Executive Leadership Programme by CSC and the Kuwait Civil Service Commission (KCSC) held since 2016 for middle managers from Kuwait’s Civil Service;
  • Seven customised protocol training programmes for Bahraini protocol officers; and
  • Hosting 70 study visits by UAE officials since 2014 (as of May 2018).
Academic Engagement and Cooperation

Singapore's schools and tertiary institutions actively engage the Middle East, with an increasing variety of programmes and opportunities available for students to gain a better appreciation and understanding of the region. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • University study trips to the Middle East, organised by the National University of Singapore under the Study Trips for Engagement and Enrichment (STEER) programme, and Singapore Management University’s Business Study Mission;
  • The NUS Overseas College (NOC) in Israel initiative, which is a successful internship programme that provides postgraduates and undergraduates the opportunity to experience Israel’s unique entrepreneurship culture and dynamic environment of business start-ups;
  • Research and Development (R&D) collaboration between Singaporean and Israeli universities;
  • The Middle East Institute, which was set up by NUS in 2007 in recognition of the region’s significant role in the world and to promote a deeper understanding of the Middle East in Singapore;
  • The Raffles Institution Middle East Programme (at the secondary school level) which helps to generate greater awareness of the region;
  • The S R Nathan Annual Distinguished Lectures, which see leading decision-makers visit Singapore to dialogue about issues and contribute to analyses on the Middle East.  Most recently, Kuwait President of the National Security Bureau delivered the 4th S R Nathan Distinguished Lecture in November 2017 titled “Geopolitical Challenges in the Gulf Region”.

 

MULTILATERAL ENGAGEMENT

Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED) - Singapore mooted the idea of establishing an Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED) in 2004 as part of our efforts to foster political, economic and cultural engagement between Asia and the Middle East. Singapore hosted the inaugural AMED Ministerial Meeting in 2005, which was attended by leaders from Asia and Middle East. Since then, AMED has produced a number of initiatives including the Regional Training Centres in Jordan and Qatar, which has trained over 600 officials from 44 AMED member countries and Africa.  

Recent Highlights

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  • Speaker of Parliament Madam Halimah Yacob visited Abu Dhabi for the Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament from 12 to 13 December.
  • Minister (Defence) Ng Eng Hen visited Kuwait from 8 to 9 December before visiting Bahrain to attend the Manama Dialogue from 9 to 10 December.
  • Minister (Home Affairs and Law) K Shanmugam visited Abu Dhabi to attend the Sir Bani Yas Forum from 18 to 20 November.
  • Director General of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, Chairman of Hedayah and Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Elders Dr Rashid Al Nuaimi visited Singapore under the Middle East Eminent Persons Programme (MEEPP) from 16 to 18 November.
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman made a working visit to Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan from 6 to 10 November.
  • President Tony Tan Keng Yam made a State Visit to Egypt from 30 October to 3 November to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Singapore-Egypt diplomatic relations.
  • Saudi Minister of Education Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Issa made a visit to Singapore from 9 to 10 October.
  • Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani made an official visit to Singapore from 4 to 5 October.
  • Kuwaiti Minister of Public Works Dr Ali Saleh Al Omair and Qatar Minister of Municipality and Environment Mohammed Bin Abdullah Mitaib Al Rumaihi attended the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit from 9 to 14 July.
  • Bahrainian Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed made a working visit to Singapore to attend the Ministerial Forum on ICT from 2 to 3 June.
  • Iranian Minister of Labour, Cooperatives and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei made a visit to Singapore from 17 to 21 May.
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman made a working visit to Qatar to attend the 16th Doha Forum from 20 to 22 May.
  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories from 16 to 22 April.
  • Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Minister of National Economy Abeer Odeh led a delegation from the Palestinian Federation of Industries on a study visit to Singapore from 7 to 11 March.
  • Omani Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Bin Hamad Al Busaidi visited Singapore from 22 to 23 March.
  • Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Singapore from 7 to 9 March.
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean co-chaired the 7th High-Level Joint Committee Meeting in Qatar on 6 March before visiting Egypt from 7 to 9 March.
  • PNA Minister of General Personnel Council Mousa Abu Zaid visited Singapore from 29 February to 1 March.
  • Minister (Trade and Industry – Industry) S Iswaran visited Iran from 27 February to 1 March.
  • Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim attended the Annual Hajj Ministerial Meetings in Saudi Arabia from 10 to 12 February.
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman visited Saudi Arabia from 22 to 24 February and the UAE from 24 to 26 February.
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 28 to 30 September 2017, as well as Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from 1 to 2 October 2017.
  • Minister of State (Prime Minister’s Office, Manpower and Foreign Affairs) Sam Tan, attended the opening ceremony of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, from 16 to 19 September 2017. 
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman made an introductory visit to Lebanon from 9 to 11 May.
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman made an introductory visit to Kuwait from 7 to 8 May.
  • Minister (Foreign Affairs) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan visited Jordan from 6 to 7 May.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an official visit to Singapore from 20 to 21 February.
  • Representative to the Palestinian National Authority Hawazi Daipi visited the West Bank from 16 to 21 January.
  • His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), visited Singapore from 10 to 11 May, calling on President Halimah Yacob, and meeting Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, and Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung.
  • His Eminence Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, visited Singapore from 3 to 5 May at the invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
  • His Excellency Mohammed Sajid, Minister for Tourism, Air Transport, Handicraft and Social Economy of the Kingdom of Morocco visited Singapore from 24 to 26 April at the invitation of Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan under the Middle East Eminent Persons’ Programme.
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan made his introductory visit to Qatar from 15 to 16 April. Minister Balakrishnan called on Prime Minister and Minister of Interior His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, DPM and Minister of State for Defence Affairs His Excellency Dr Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, and co-chaired the inaugural Implementation Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) meeting with DPM and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani. At His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed’s invitation, Minister Balakrishnan attended the opening ceremony of the Qatar National Library and met Qatar Emir His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani on the sidelines of the opening ceremony.
  • Senior Minister of State (Defence) (Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman made a working visit to Morocco from 29 March to 1 April 2018 together with a business delegation.
  • Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud Bin Naif visited Singapore from 15 to 17 March, calling on President Halimah Yacob, and meeting Deputy Prime Minister DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam and former Minister For Communications And Information, Minister-In-Charge Of Cyber Security And Minister-In-Charge Of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
  • His Excellency Hatem Chahreddine Ferjani, Secretary of State for Economic Diplomacy, visited Singapore from 25 to 27 February.  He signed the Singapore-Tunisia Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and opened the Tunisia Business Forum.
  • Minister (Foreign Affairs) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan made a Working Visit to the United Arab Emirates on 21 February to address a closed-door session at the 12th Forum of UAE Ambassadors and Heads of Missions Abroad, at the invitation of UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
  • Senior Minister of State (SMS) (Defence) (Foreign Affairs) Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman visited the State of Kuwait from 12 to 14 February. He attended the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the Ministerial Conference of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. SMS Maliki also called on Kuwait First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence His Excellency Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
  • His Excellency Tarek Kabil, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Arab Republic of Egypt, visited Singapore from 8 to 10 February at the invitation of Senior Minister of State (Trade and Industry) Dr Koh Poh Koon.
  • Dr Ali Taiebnia, Senior Advisor to the Iran President, visited Singapore from 30 January to 4 February as the 62nd Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellow. Dr Taiebnia, who served as Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance from 2013 to 2017, is the first Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellow from Iran.