Archive for category Qatar
December 05, 2017
KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwait’s emir on Tuesday quickly called an end to a planned two-day meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council within hours of its start amid the ongoing diplomatic dispute surrounding Qatar.
The sudden end of the meeting in Kuwait City raised new questions about the future of the GCC, a six-member Gulf Arab regional bloc formed in part to be a counterbalance to Shiite power Iran. Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah’s decision came after the United Arab Emirates earlier in the day announced a new partnership with Saudi Arabia separate from the GCC.
The Emirati Foreign Ministry said the new “joint cooperation committee” was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan. The ministry said the new committee “is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries.”
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have cultivated close ties in recent years. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nayhan, also is believed to be close to Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Emirati announcement did not say whether any other Gulf Arab countries would be invited to join the new group, but the development puts pressure the GCC, whose members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates — are all U.S. allies.
The United States and its European allies have told the council’s members that the region remains stronger with them working together as a whole, while the countries themselves still appear divided over their future.
The fact the GCC meeting in Kuwait was to take place at all is a bit of a surprise, given the unusually sharp criticism among the typically clubby members of the GCC pointed at Doha. The dispute began in June, following what Qatar described as a hack of its state-run news agency and the circulation of incendiary comments attributed to its ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Soon after, GCC members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates closed off their airspace and seaports to Qatar, as well as the small peninsular nation’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia.
The boycott initially riled Doha, though it soon replaced food products with those flown in from Turkey and Iran. However, Qatar’s foreign reserves have dropped by some $10 billion — a fifth of their value — since the dispute began. Those reserves are crucial in supporting the nation’s riyal, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, as well as funding the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup that Doha will host.
The boycotting nations allege Qatar funds extremist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran. Qatar has long denied funding extremists but it restored full diplomatic ties with Iran during the crisis. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran that gives its citizens the highest per-capita income in the world.
A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time positions have hardened against Qatar, whose support for Islamist opposition groups has angered the Arab nations now boycotting it. The UAE in particular views Islamists as a threat to hereditary rule in its federation of seven sheikhdoms. Egypt, angered by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the nation’s deposed President Mohammed Morsi, is also boycotting Doha.
The U.S., which has some 10,000 troops stationed at Qatar’s sprawling al-Udeid Air Base as part of its campaign against the Islamic State group and the war in Afghanistan, also has sought to end the crisis. Its military has halted some regional exercises to put pressure on the GCC to resolve the crisis. However, President Donald Trump in the meantime made comments seemingly supporting the Arab nations’ efforts at isolating Qatar, complicating those efforts.
A Trump-prompted call in September between Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim and the Saudi crown prince that offered a chance at negotiations also broke down in mutual recriminations. Kuwait’s 88-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah, has tried to mediate the dispute, so far without success.
Tuesday’s meeting in Kuwait City was to be a summit of the region’s rulers. However, only Qatar and Kuwait were represented by their ruling emirs, sparking anger online by Kuwaitis that the nations boycotting Qatar had slighted their leader.
Despite the troubles, Sheikh Sabah tried to stay positive. “I would like to congratulate all the people of the GCC nations for our success in holding this summit, proving how committed we are to this establishment and continuity,” he said.
After a closed-door meeting lasting around 15 minutes, Sheikh Sabah announced the end of the summit to applause.
Associated Press writers Hussain al-Qatari and Malak Harb contributed to this report.
October 13, 2017
PARIS (AP) — The election of UNESCO’s new chief has been narrowed down to two candidates, one from Qatar and the other from France. The winner to be selected on Friday will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova, whose 8-year term leading the U.N. cultural agency was marred by financial woes and criticism over Palestine’s inclusion as a member.
The final vote comes the day after the U.S. and Israel said they plan to pull out of the Paris-based organization over perceived anti-Israel bias. Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France’s Audrey Azoulay are vying to get the needed 30 votes from UNESCO’s executive board.
Arab countries have long wanted to lead the organization, but the Palestine issue has complicated the election. UNESCO’s general assembly will have to sign off on the board’s pick.
October 11, 2017
The number of cargo vessels arriving at Hamad Port in Doha rose by 47.3 per cent in August, Qatar News Agency has reported.
According to the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, the figure was 162 vessels carrying around 1.3 million tons of goods. The ministry’s monthly report showed that in the same period the total number of vessels in all of Qatar’s ports was just over 600, carrying about 3.9 million tons.
The Director of Hamad Port, Abdul Aziz Al-Yafei, announced last month that the port authority plans to accommodate more than 1,000 vessels by the end of this year, and about one million containers. Al-Yafie explained that work is underway to make Hamad Port a major re-export hub in the region.
The Hamad Port only opened officially on 5 September. It aims to acquire 35 per cent of the total Middle East trade by next year.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
DOHA – Qatar said Tuesday that a new $7.4 billion port would help to “break the shackles” of a three-month-old boycott of the gas-rich emirate by Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.
The Hamad Port, which began operating in December, is a major hub for imports to Qatar, hit by a land and air embargo by some of its most powerful neighbors.
“This is a gateway to break the shackles imposed on Qatar,” transport minister Jassim bin Saif Al-Sulaiti said in a speech during an inauguration ceremony for the port held Tuesday.
“Nothing can stop us and our ambition,” he added.
In a relatively rare public appearance since the onset of the crisis, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attended the inauguration but did not speak.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of bankrolling Islamist extremist groups and having close ties to Shiite Iran.
Qatar denies the charges.
Tuesday’s hour-long ceremony, broadcast live on Qatari television stations, included a band, acrobats and fireworks.
The ostentatious display was a clear signal of defiance to Qatar’s neighbors after their suspension of economic and diplomatic relations with Doha.
Hamad will be Qatar’s largest container port and will provide commercial access to some 150 countries, according to official reports.
These include links to regional ports in Oman and Kuwait, and more distant ports of call from Turkey to India and Pakistan.
Qatar previously relied on neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for food imports.
But as part of the sanctions, Saudi Arabia sealed its land border with Qatar.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran have since stepped in to help meet Qatar’s food needs.
The Hamad Port is located on Qatar’s south eastern coast, around an hour’s drive from Doha.
It has a capacity of 1.7 million tonnes of general freight and one million tonnes of grain, according to Mwani Qatar, the country’s port management company.
Source: Middle East Online.
August 9, 2017
Dubai’s status as a financial hub for the region is increasingly coming under threat as one of Qatar’s major shipping and logistics firm relocates its regional trans-shipment hub from Dubai to Oman’s Sohar port.
With the Saudi led blockade of Qatar now entering its third month, Milaha Maritime and Logistics, which “delivers a comprehensive range of services to some of the region’s biggest players in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”, announced the move that may raise concerns in Dubai over its potential to remain the unrivaled economic hub of the region.
One of the measures taken by the blockading countries was to deny Qatar access to their ports. Typically, cargo for Qatar stopped at the UAE’s massive port in Jebel Ali, Dubai, or in Abu Dhabi, then got put on smaller boats heading to Doha. Following the blockade, international free trade zones like Jebel Ali were off-limits to Qatari companies. Hundreds of containers destined for Qatar were seized by the authorities in clear breach of the provisions and laws of the International Trade Organisation that safeguard the free flow of goods.
Oman was quick to announce its readiness to become the import/export hub of the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member was one of the countries that stood to benefit from the Saudi-led blockade after deciding to remain neutral and allowing Qatar-bound ships to use its ports. The country also launched one of its boldest projects; Bayan is the largest electronic system in the Sultanate that allows international traders to obtain government permits and licences quickly and efficiently.
An increasing number of companies have now turned to Oman, and that is likely to have a severe knock-on effect on Dubai. Analysts have warned that the economic embargo on Qatar could hurt Dubai’s status as a financial hub.
Industry analysts believe that both Kuwait and Oman will reap the benefit of trade transactions that used to take place in countries like the UAE. Qatar Petroleum chief Saad Al-Kaabi told Al Jazeera that, as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) producing up to 77 million tonnes each year, it had to move quickly to mitigate the impact of the blockade and secure alternative routes. While stressing that the blockade has made Qatar much stronger, Doha was in any case unlikely to return to using ports within the blockading countries that previously serviced its global exports.
On Monday, Qatar’s transport ministry said three new direct shipping lines are being opened with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan. These countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, are expected to benefit financially from doing trade with the countries affected by the boycott.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
June 30, 2017
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Qatar’s defense minister held talks with his Turkish counterpart on Friday as the Gulf nation’s feud with four other major Arab states deepens amid a sweeping list of demands to Doha, including the closure of a Turkish military base there.
U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, discussed ways to resolve the dispute in a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said. Defense Ministry officials said Qatar’s Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah met with Turkey’s Fikri Isik in Ankara, but did not provide details.
Turkey is adamant to keep its base in the small Gulf Arab state and has sided with Qatar in the dispute, which saw Arab countries cut ties to Doha earlier this month, accusing it of supporting terror groups. Qatar denies the accusation.
In a sign of support, Turkey shipped supplies to Doha to help ease its isolation and swiftly ratified military agreements with Qatar, allowing the deployment of soldiers to its base. A contingent of 23 troops departed for Doha last week, joining some 90 soldiers already there.
Erdogan has rejected the four Arab nations’ demand for an end to Turkish troop presence in Doha, calling it “disrespectful” and saying that Turkey would not seek permission from others over its defense cooperation agreements.
Turkey insists its troop deployment to Qatar aims to enhance regional security and is not aimed against any specific country. The White House said Trump and Erdogan spoke about ways to overcome the crisis “while ensuring that all countries work to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology.”
“President Trump emphasized the importance of all our allies and partners increasing their efforts to fight terrorism and extremism in all its forms,” the White House statement added. Other demands presented to Qatar by the four nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — include shuttering the Al-Jazeera news network and curbing diplomatic ties to Iran.
Erdogan has said the demand for Al-Jazeera’s shutdown is an attempt to strip the network of its press freedom and urged rights groups to denounce the call. Qatar denies supporting extremism and considers the demands an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.
June 25, 2017
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, saying their sweeping list of ultimatums has threatened the small Gulf country’s sovereignty.
Speaking after Eid prayers in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the demand “disrespectful” and said Turkey would not seek permission from others when making its defense cooperation agreements.
“Demanding that Turkey pull its soldiers is unfortunately also disrespectful toward Turkey,” he said. He said Turkey would continue to support Qatar against the many sanctions it has faced since several Arab countries moved earlier this month to isolate the country for its alleged support of terrorism.
In a sign of support, the Turkish parliament swiftly ratified a 2014 agreement with Qatar earlier this month, allowing the deployment of troops to its base there. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday.
Erdogan said he made a similar offer to Saudi Arabia to set up a base there in the past but did not hear back from the king. Doha received a 13-point list from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain that included demands to shut down the media network Al-Jazeera and cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. The energy-rich country said it was reviewing the ultimatum but added it would not negotiate under siege.
Turkey’s president said his country “admires and embraces” Qatar’s attitude, while slamming the demands by arguing they contradict international law. “Here we see an attack against a state’s sovereignty rights,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan called the demand that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera an attempt to take away the network’s press freedom and urged rights groups to speak out against that.