Azerbaijan's ministry of energy announced Friday that OPEC+ will hold a ministerial-level videoconference on April 6 devoted to stabilizing oil prices. Saudi Arabia and Russia have communicated to the Trump administration that they will only cut oil output if the US joins them. While some American oil majors oppose the idea, the shale industry, which requires higher energy prices to turn a profit, is more sympathetic. A circulating Saudi-Russian plan delineates oil cut expectations for each OPEC+ member as well as for the US, Canada, and Brazil.
A day after the Sindh High Court overturned convictions against four terrorists involved in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the Sindh provincial government's home department ordered their arrest and detainment for three months on the grounds that the men may act against the interest of the country. This move will keep the four incarcerated while the state prepares an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the Sindh High Court's decision.
Joe Biden Thursday released a statement calling for the US to ease sanctions on Iran that are "inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance." The statement reads in part: "There are already humanitarian exceptions in place for sanctions, but in practice, most governments and organizations are too concerned about running afoul of U.S. sanctions to offer assistance... Specific steps should include: issuing broad licenses to pharmaceutical and medical device companies; creating a dedicated channel for international banks, transportation companies, insurers, and other service firms to help Iranians access life-saving medical treatment; issuing new sanctions guidance to these groups and international aid organizations to make it clear how they can immediately, directly, and legally respond to the tragedy in Iran, without fear of penalty; and, for entities already conducting enhanced due diligence, it should issue comfort letters to reassure them that they will not be subject to U.S. sanctions if they engage in humanitarian trade with Iran to support its COVID-19 response."
King Salman issued a royal order aimed at limiting private sector layoffs by offering to cover 60 percent of workers' salaries for three months, with a limit of 9,000 riyals ($2,393) per worker. The order authorizes disbursing up to 9 billion riyals in all.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) Friday launched an airstrike in Sirte that killed 20 members of Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). This strike is part of a broader, Turkish-backed offensive initiated last week along several fronts that forced the LNA to abandon its posts in southern Tripoli.
According to Channel 13, coalition negotiations between Likud and Blue and White settled on the distribution of ministries, but disagreement on the unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank remains. Since Telem members Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser along with Yisrael Beiteinu are on record supporting annexing at least some territories assigned to Israel by President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century," such a move enjoys clear majority support in the Knesset. However, Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as Labor chairman Amir Peretz, want to condition annexation on Jordanian support, which will not be forthcoming.
Turkey is extending the stay-at-home order, previously imposed on those 65 and older, to people 20 and younger. The government is also quarantining 31 cities, the only exception being for essential goods. Henceforth, facemasks will be obligatory in crowded places, such as supermarkets.
United Arab Emirates
The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development issued a directive that will slap a Dh250,000 ($68,064) to a Dh2 million ($544,514) fine for hiking prices of food and medical supplies without justification or hoarding essential items.
Tunisia is launching a free mental health helpline as the country's lockdown has contributed to a five-fold increase in the number of domestic abuse cases compared with the same period last year. Similarly, the National Commission for Lebanese Women in cooperation with Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF) set up a domestic violence hotline and website to report abuse directly to the ISF.
Kuwait's interior ministry is threatening to deport expatriates who violate the curfew introduced to contain COVID-19, urging those who need to leave their homes to seek special permits online. Police have already arrested almost 200 people for disobeying the curfew.
Starting on April 15, Sudan will ban the export of maize until further notice to prevent a COVID-19-induced food shortage.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum