CAIRO, July 18, (Agencies): Egypt will end visa-free entry for Qatari nationals with some exceptions, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Monday, the latest measure taken against Doha which Cairo and three Gulf governments are boycotting.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with the Gulf state, after accusing it of financing militant groups and allying with their regional arch-foe Iran. Doha denies the accusations.
“It does not make sense to keep making exceptions for Qatar and giving it privileges in light of its current positions,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. Qatari nationals will now have to apply for a visa in order to enter Egypt.
Qatari nationals with Egyptian mothers, those married to Egyptians, and Qataris studying in Egypt will be exempt from having to apply for a visa, he added.
Sources at Cairo International Airport told Reuters the decision would be implemented as of Thursday July 20, which the Qatari Foreign Ministry later confirmed on Twitter.
Foreign workers make up around 1.6 million of Qatar’s 2.5 million population, and hundreds of thousands of them are Egyptians, making them one of the biggest foreign contingents in the Gulf country. So far no action has been taken against them.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Kuwaiti counterpart earlier on Monday that Egypt is standing by the list of demands it and the three Gulf countries made of Qatar and will keep sanctions against Doha in place.
Kuwait has been leading mediation efforts between Qatar and the four Arab states boycotting it. Its top diplomat Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah met Shoukry and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo on Monday.
“The Foreign Minister affirmed to his Kuwaiti counterpart Egypt’s commitment to the list of demands presented to the state of Qatar and the continuation of sanctions taken against it,” Abu Zeid said in a statement earlier.
The insistence comes “in light of what the quartet states see as Qatar’s stalling and procrastination, and lack of concern for the concerns of the four states,” he said.
Shoukry told Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled the only way the crisis would be resolved was if Qatar fulfilled the demands, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the pan-Arab al Jazeera satellite TV channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with rival Iran.
Sisi lauds HH Amir
Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has expressed his appreciation of Kuwait’s good efforts led by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, reflecting keenness on boosting the Arab solidarity and consensus.
El-Sisi made his remarks on Monday during a meeting with the visiting Kuwaiti Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Presidential Spokesman Alaa Yousef said in a statement.
The meeting was attended by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, and Kuwait’s Assistant Foreign Minister for the Office of the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, and the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Egypt Mohammad Al-Thuwaikh.
The Egyptian President asked Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled to convey his greetings to His Highness the Amir, highly appreciating Kuwait’s “unforgettable” supportive stances by the side of Egyptian people.
Egyptians will always hold good and love sentiments towards the Kuwaiti people and His Highness the Amir who represents a major Arab value and wise leadership, said el-Sisi.
He also affirmed Cairo’s keenness on continuing consultations and coordination with Kuwait on various regional and international issues of mutual interest.
The Egyptian foreign policy’s constants are based on several principles, including non-interference in the internal affairs of any country, and striving to preserve the Arab national security, as well as disallowing interference in Egypt’s affairs, el-Sisi mentioned.
El-Sisi also stressed the importance of standing decisively against policies that support terrorism and foiling attempts to destabilize the Arab states or tamper with people’s destinies.
For his part, the Kuwaiti Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister conveyed His Highness the Amir’s regards to el-Sisi, affirming his country’s keenness on boosting ties with Egypt on all levels, said Yousef.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said Kuwait is looking forward to hosting the Kuwaiti-Egyptian higher committee’s meeting to discuss ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation.
He reaffirmed his country’s keenness on Egypt’s security and stability, noting that the Arab North African country is a pillar of stability in the Arab region, and that Kuwait is to continue intensive coordination and consultations with Cairo in the forthcoming period.
Meanwhile, the two sides discussed a number of regional issues, notably the ongoing dispute between Qatar and a number of Arab countries, the Presidential spokesman noted, adding that Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled pointed out that Kuwait’s efforts aim at solving the crisis an d preserving the unity of Arab states.
Erdogan set to visit
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will this month visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are locked in a deep diplomatic crisis, his office announced Tuesday.
Erdogan will also visit Kuwait, the main mediator in the Qatar crisis, during his July 23-24 tour.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Ankara would continue to play a “constructive and active” role to help solve what he described as a “pointless” crisis.
Yildirim added Erdogan’s visit would be part of this effort.
Erdogan is expected to visit Saudi Arabia then Kuwait on July 23 followed by Qatar on July 24, according to private news agency Dogan.
Turkey is a key ally of Qatar, which has been diplomatically and economically isolated by its Gulf neighbours over allegations it supports terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain last month cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and issued 13 wide-ranging demands to lift the blockade, including the closure of a Turkish military base in the emirate.
The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position as Qatar is its main ally in the Gulf but Ankara does not want to antagonise key regional power Saudi Arabia.
Qatar, the tiny Gulf state being isolated by its neighbors, said Monday the reported involvement of the United Arab Emirates in hacking its government news site in May is “unfortunate” and a breach of agreements among the Gulf countries.
The Washington Post, quoting unnamed US intelligence officials, reported Sunday that the UAE orchestrated the hacking and planted a false story that was used as a pretext for the crisis between Qatar and four Arab countries.
The report said senior members of the Emirati government discussed the hacking plan a day before a story appeared on the official Qatar News Agency quoting Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, allegedly praising Iran and saying Qatar has a good relationship with Israel.
The UAE has denied involvement, calling the Post report “false” and insisting that the UAE “had no role whatsoever” in the alleged hacking.
The UAE along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and severed air, land and sea links with Qatar in early June over allegations that it supports extremist ideology — a charge Qatar denied. The crisis has dragged on for more than a month with neither side showing signs of backing down.
Qatar maintained from the beginning that the quotes attributed to its ruler were the result of a hacking. It said in a statement Monday that the Post report “unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place.”
Sheikh Saif bin Ahmad Al Thani, the head of Qatar’s government communications office, said “it is especially unfortunate that this shameful act of cyber terrorism is being attributed to a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“This criminal act represents a clear violation and breach of international law and of the bilateral and collective agreements signed between the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as collective agreements with the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the United Nations,” he said.
The GCC is a six-member bloc that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Kuwait has been serving as a mediator in trying to resolve the current Gulf crisis.
Sheikh Saif said a Qatari government investigation into the hacking is ongoing and that prosecutors will “take all necessary legal measures to bring to justice the perpetrators and instigators of this crime.”
Meanwhile, one of Qatar’s two telecommunications companies is struggling to bring its network online following a widespread outage.
Vodafone Qatar said on Tuesday on Twitter that network engineers have arrived in the tiny Gulf country to fix the outage that began on Monday. It says that “all hands are on deck” to fix the problem.
Vodafone competes against Ooredoo, formerly known as Qtel. Both companies are partly owned by government-linked entities.
The outage happened as Qatar remains locked in a dispute with four other Arab countries that have cut diplomatic ties and severed air, land and sea links. They have threatened to intensify their isolation of Qatar if it does not give in to their demands.
Pakistan backs efforts
Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday expressed his country’s support of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis.
This came during talks in Islamabad with the visiting Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
The foreign minister briefed the premier on Qatar’s response to the demands of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt and the current status of mediation efforts pursued by His Highness the Amir of Kuwait.
The prime minister appreciated the “sagacity and wisdom” of His Highness the Amir, and said Pakistan supports these “sincere efforts,” according to an official statement.
“Pakistan maintains close, friendly and cooperative relations with all GCC(Gulf Cooperation Council) countries and is concerned at the recent crisis in Middle East,” added the statement.
Furthermore, Sharif said that Pakistan wishes to see a diplomatic solution to the problem between brotherly Islamic countries.
For his part, the Qatari minister expressed his gratitude to the prime minister for the warm reception and reiterated Qatar’s desire to further enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.