EXPULSION OF QATARIS COMES INTO EFFECT – TURKISH TROOPS DRILL IN QATAR
DOHA, June 19, (Agencies): Qatar’s foreign minister on Monday called on neighbouring states to lift their “blockade” of his country before Doha takes part in any negotiations on ending the Gulf diplomatic crisis. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani called measures to isolate Qatar imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others “an act of aggression”, adding that lifting them was a “pre-condition” for talks. “We have to make it very clear for everyone, negotiations must be done in a civilised way and should have a solid basis and not under pressure or under blockade,” the foreign minister told reporters in Doha. “Qatar under blockade — there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade.”
On June 5, Saudi Arabia and allied states cut all ties with Qatar, pulling their ambassadors from the emirate and ordering its citizens to repatriate by June 19.
The measures also included closing Qatar’s only land border, banning its planes from using their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from transiting through their airports. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and other states accuse Qatar of supporting and funding “terrorism” and of working with regional rival Iran, charges Doha firmly denies.
Sheikh Mohammed’s demand came as a UAE minister warned that Qatar’s diplomatic isolation could “last years”. Sheikh Mohammed said that Qatar had not received any demands from the Gulf states or from countries seeking a diplomatic solution, including Kuwait, the United States, France and Britain. “Why they didn’t submit their demands yet? For us, there is no clear answer for this,” he said. “But what we have seen until now, there is no solid ground for these demands, that’s why they didn’t submit their demands yet.”
The foreign minister added that the economic impact on Qatar had so far proved minimal but added: “We are not claiming we are living in a perfect condition.” The Gulf political crisis has also affected countries outside the region. “France, UK or the United States — they are strong allies of Qatar and we have a great deal of cooperation together in terms of military, defence, security, economically,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “So a blockade on Qatar and measures being taken against Qatar in this way is affecting the interests of those countries as well, directly.”
UAE warns Qatar
The United Arab Emirates warned Qatar on Monday that sanctions imposed by several of its neighbours could last for years unless Doha accepts demands which Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days. The tough remarks by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Monday made clear that the countries seeking to isolate Qatar have no intention of backing down soon. “Qatar will realise that this is a new state of affairs and isolation can last years,” Gargash told a small group of reporters in Paris on Monday. “If they want to be isolated because of their perverted view of what their political role is, then let them be isolated. They are still in a phase of denial and anger,” he said, adding that a list of grievances for Qatar to address would be completed in the next days.
Expulsion comes into effect
The deadline for Qataris to leave neighboring Gulf Arab states came into effect on Monday as the diplomatic standoff persisted with no end in sight despite multiple efforts at mediation. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and announced that Qatari residents would have 14 days to leave. They also urged their own citizens in Qatar to leave and threatened imprisonment and fines for anyone who criticizes the measures. Officials later clarified there would be exceptions for mixednationality families in the Gulf, where tribes span across national borders. Saudi Arabia also said it would not bar Qataris wanting to perform the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah. Rights group Amnesty International said, however, such measures are “clearly insufficient to address the human rights impact of the arbitrary, blanket measures.”
Prior to the diplomatic row, Qatari nationals could travel visa-free between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. Qatar has said it has no plans to expel Gulf nationals residing there. The United Nations human rights chief last week criticized the expulsion of Qataris, saying people risk losing access to their homes and jobs, and students cannot sit for exams.
In addition to severing diplomatic ties, the Gulf states have blocked Qatar’s access to their airspace, shipping lanes and ports. They have also barred direct flights to Qatar’s capital, Doha. Saudi Arabia sealed Qatar’s only land border, a key route for food imports. Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of Qatar’s Government Communications Office, said in a statement that the blockade, now entering its third week, is tearing at the social fabric of the Gulf. “It is clear that the actions of the blockading nations have little to do with addressing legitimate grievances and everything to do with attacking Qatar’s image and reputation,” he said.
Turkey, Qatar troops drill
Turkish troops have taken part in long-planned joint military exercises in Qatar, military sources and al Jazeera television reported on Monday, following a diplomatic rift between Doha and four other Arab states. Doha-based al Jazeera reported that Turkish troops had arrived in Qatar on Sunday. Military sources in the region told Reuters no new Turkish military unit had been sent to Qatar and a unit already present there was taking part in the drills. Al Jazeera posted a video on its website of armoured personnel carriers moving through streets. Turkey’s parliament on June 7 fasttracked legislation to allow troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar that currently houses about 90 Turkish soldiers. Turkey set up the base, its fi rst such installation in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. The Turkish forces conducted their fi rst training at Tariq bin Ziyad military base on Sunday, al Jazeera said, citing the ministry, saying the drills had been long planned.