Qatar-Gulf crisis: All latest updates

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Ten months ago, an air, sea and land blockade was imposed on Qatar by four Arab countries.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump mediation

  • On April 29, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for unity in the Gulf region, during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

  • In advance of Pompeo’s visit, US officials told reporters the US secretary of state would urge Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and King Salman to resolve the Gulf crisis in a series of meetings on Saturday and Sunday.

  • On April 23, US Ambassador to Kuwait Lawrence Silverman said: President Donald Trump was eager to find a “quick and final” solution to the Gulf crisis.

  • There have been contacts between US and Gulf officials over the crisis, he told Kuwait state news agency KUNA, and he affirmed the “unity” of the six was important amid huge security challenges.

  • On April 11, cited officials said Trump is interested in restoring unity among Gulf Arab states and present a united front against Iran.

Qatar Airways

  • Losses: On Wednesday, April 25, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker told reporters that the airline has made a “substantial” loss in its financial year because of the regional dispute. 
  • “We have increased our operating costs,” al-Baker said at the Eurasia Airshow in Antalya, Turkey. “We had to also take a hit on revenues so we don’t think that our results for the last financial year will be very good.” 

  • Acquisitions: On April 10, Qatar Airways bought a minority stake in JetSuite, a US private aviation company, potentially expanding the semi-private model across the US.

  • On February 20, Italian airline Meridiana changed its name to Air Italy with the backing of its new shareholder, Qatar Airways. The airline aims to become Italy’s flagship carrier, as UAE-backed Alitalia filed for bankruptcy.

  • The blockading countries have targeted Qatar Airways by forbidding it from using their airspace, but it has found alternative routes and expanded its travel network with new international partnerships.

Syria intervention

  • On April 24, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that “Qatar must pay for the US military forces’ in Syria, and send its military forces there before the US president denies US protection for Qatar.”

  • Al Jubeir’s remarks came after US President Donald Trump repeated earlier calls on the “immensely wealthy” countries in the region to step up their financial and military involvement in the region, in lieu of the United States.

  • “They wouldn’t be there except for the United States. They wouldn’t last a week. We are protecting them. They have to now step up, and pay for what is happening,” Trump said.

  • Earlier in April, Trump announced his intention to withdraw from Syria and said “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision… Well, you know, you want us to stay, maybe you’re going to have to pay.”

Qatar airspace

  • Qatar airspace: On April 23, Qatar’s civil aviation authority denied UAE’s claims that Qatari military planes intercepted a civilian aircraft on April 22.

  • According to Qatar, an unauthorised military aircraft from the UAE entered Qatar’s airspace in the same area as the UAE’s civilian aeroplane.

  • On April 22, the United Arab Emirates said that a civilian aircraft heading to Bahrain was approached by a Qatari jet, forcing its pilot to take evasive manoeuvers to avoid a collision.

  • On March 28, Qatar reported to the UN Security Council an alleged violation of its airspace by a Bahraini warplane. Since December, Qatar has reported four such violations to the UN.

US-GCC summit

  • On April 23, Kuwait Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah said, “Kuwait and the Arab Gulf countries were determined to solve the crisis.”

  • “Everybody realises the longer this division the deeper the wound will be,” al-Jarallah said.

  • He added circumstances were not yet ripe to hold a summit between the GCC and the US. He noted the summit might be held next September.

  • On April 3, US officials cited by Reuters said that the summit planned between Gulf Arab leaders and the US is being postponed to September.

  • On March 7, Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid al-Jarallah confirmed to Kuwait’s news agency that the US planned to host a summit to resolve the Gulf dispute, but said that no invitations had been sent.

Al Jazeera

  • On April 22, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa tweeted his “14th demand”, calling for the prosecution of Al Jazeera for “spreading lies and rumours that cause confusion in our countries”.

  • In July 2017, Bahrain and the other blockading countries issued a 13-point list of demands to lift the blockade on Qatar, including the shutdown of the Al Jazeera’s Network.

Qatar – US

  • Military: On April 19, Governor Jim Justice announced a new military partnership between Qatar and West Virginia “to expand upon military to military, military to civilian, and civilian to civilian engagements,” between the two.

  • On April 11, the US approved a $300m sale of guided missiles to Qatar, after Qatar’s emir met with the US secretary of defence at the Pentagon on April 9.

  • Economy: On April 17, Qatar’s economy minister chaired the Qatar-US Economic Forum in Charleston, South Carolina, and highlighted that 84 percent of the $24bn of trade between the two countries in 2017 was in favour of the US.

  • On April 11, Qatar’s emir also participated in the Qatar-US Economic Forum and said that the country is planning to “double” the $125bn partnership in coming years.

  • The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) allocated $45bn of investments for the period between 2015 and 2020 of which $10bn were allocated for the infrastructure sector, Qatar’s economy minister said.

Gulf shield drill 

  • On April 18, the Qatari Ministry of Defence announced its participation in the month-long “Gulf Shield 1” military exercises held in Saudi Arabia. 

  • The military drill was conducted in the town of Ras Al Khair, north of Jubail city in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, from March 21 to April 16, along with land, sea and air forces from 25 other countries.

Military bases

  • Qatar: On April 16, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdg visited a Turkish military base in Qatar as part of his official tour to the Gulf state.

  • Earlier this year, the Turkish ambassador to Qatar said that “according to the agreement signed between Qatar and Turkey in 2014, all ground, air, and naval forces will be deployed to Qatar.”

  • Qatar also hosts American, British and French forces at the Al Udeid airbase.
  • Bahrain: On April 5, in Bahrain, the UK inaugurated its first permanent naval base in the Middle East since 1971.

  • Bahrain’s crown prince said that it “reflects Bahrain’s support for the international coalition against terrorism and will also contribute to global security by safeguarding maritime activity and global trade”.

  • Meanwhile, Bahrain and the Saudi-led quarter expect Qatar to shut down a Turkish military base, together with 12 other demands which Qatar consider to violate its sovereignty.

Arab summit

  • Dhahran: On April 15, Qatar announced that Ambassador Saif bin Muqaddam al-Buainain, its permanent ambassador to the Arab League, will head the Qatari delegation at the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

  • A week earlier, the spokesperson for the Qatari foreign ministry confirmed that it had been officially invited to the summit, but ruled out discussions on the Gulf crisis.

  • Cairo: On April 9, an official Qatari delegation was present at the 45th session of the Arab Labour Conference in Cairo to represent Qatar.

Qatari economy

  • Bonds: On April 12, Qatar raised $12bn from its first bond issuance on the international market since 2016, a few days after Saudi Arabia raised $11bn in bonds.

  • “The overall success of the issue clearly reflects the strength of the Qatari economy and the confidence the state enjoys from international investors,” a Qatari official said.

  • Investigation: On March 17, Qatar’s central bank asked US regulators to investigate the US subsidiary of a UAE-owned bank for engaging in “bogus” foreign exchange deals intended to undermine the Qatari riyal and harm its economy.

Trump meetings

  • Phone calls: On April 11, Reuters revealed that President Trump had a phone conversation with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on April 2, and demanded an end to the dispute with Qatar, according to two US officials briefed on the conversation.

  • On April 3, the US president and Qatar’s emir discussed the obstacles to restoring unity in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over the phone, according to a statement issued by the White House.

  • Meetings: On April 10, Qatar’s emir met the US President at the White House to discuss the “strategic” relationship between the two countries, the Qatar-Gulf crisis, and “terrorism” funding in the region.

  • Donald Trump met the Saudi crown prince on March 21, Qatar’s emir on April 10, and is scheduled to meet with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince after that.

World Cup

  • On April 10, the British ambassador to Qatar Ajay Sharma confirmed that the Typhoon jets acquired by Qatar in 2017 “will be ready for the World Cup.”

  • “We certainly see these jets as part of the way of securing the event,” Sharma added. 

  • On March 23, Qatar’s Attorney General Dr Ali bin Fetais al-Marri said that the blockading countries had asked Qatar to give up its right to host the World Cup in exchange for lifting the blockade.

  • In an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC, al-Marri said: “They have asked us to give up organising the World Cup to have the boycott against Qatar lifted.”

  • Al-Marri added: “I do not see any reason for the blockade other than envy. Why do the Qataris have more liberties than we have, why are they richer if Saudi Arabia is a country with more wealth? Why did Qatar get a chance to host the 2022 football World Cup?”

Bahrain airspace

  • On April 2, the United Arab Emirates said that it filed a complaint against Qatar at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) over alleged interceptions of its aircrafts in Bahraini airspace.
  • On March 27, Qatar denied claims by the UAE that the Qatari air force had intercepted two passenger flights in Bahraini airspace on March 26. 

  • Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) said the Emirati statement was an attempt to cover up the UAE’s multiple breaches of Qatari airspace.

UAE lobby 

  • On April 2 , the Wall Street Journal reported that a firm established in Israel was contracted by the UAE to lobby the US government against Qatar.

  • The US special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the firm.
  • March 5, leaked emails obtained by the BBC suggested that a major Trump fundraiser, with links to the United Arab Emirates tried to convince Donald Trump to sack Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for not supporting the blockade against Qatar.

  • Investment: On March 29, Turkey’s Investment Support and Promotion Agency opened its new office in Doha.

  • “The expanding cooperation between our countries, as two crucial players of the region, has an ever growing importance,” Fikret Ozer, Turkey’s ambassador to Doha said.

  • Transport: On February 1st, Doha hosted the Turkey-Qatar Business Forum to boost bilateral trade and ease transportation through Iraq and Iran. 
  • “We want to create a mechanism which makes transportation easier and provides a transit pass via Iraq between the two countries,” Turkey’s customs and trade minister Bulent Tufenkci said.

  • In November, Erdogan had visited Qatar to attend the third meeting of the Turkey-Qatar Supreme Strategic Committee.

Al Udeid base

  • On March 25, US Central Command (CENTCOM) denied that it was leaving the Incirlik base in southern Turkey’s Adana provinces and the Al Udeid base in Qatar.

  • The US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) also said that “These unhelpful reports feed mistrust and division among regional partners at a time when we need to work together to address shared security concerns” . 

Russia – Qatar

  • On March 26, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

  • Also on Monday, Qatar Airways announced plans to buy a minority stake in Russia’s Vnukovo Airport, the third-largest in the Moscow area by passenger numbers.

  • On February 7, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met the president of the Russian Republic of Ingushetia, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, in Doha.

  • President Yevkurov had delivered a written message from Putin, including an invitation to visit Russia.

Paramilitary funds

  • On March 21, Iraq’s foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub questioned the UAE’s claim that Qatar funded Shia-dominated paramilitary forces in Iraq.

  • “These remarks come as an obstacle at a time when Iraq is seeking to strengthen its ties with the UAE,” Mahjoub said.

  • Ahmed Saeed al-Rumaihi, head of Qatar’s media office for the foreign ministry, described the accusations as “baseless” and made without evidence.

‘Terror’ list

  • On March 21, Qatar’s National Counter-Terrorism Committee, established in 2007, published its national “terrorist” list, including 20 individuals and eight entities.

  • In May 2017, Qatar signed an agreement establishing the Anti-Terrorist Financing Center in Riyadh, together with the United States and GCC states.

  • On March 19, Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, confirmed to the Washington Post that his company met Qatari officials in 2017, but nothing came out of it.

  • On March 14, the Qatari embassy in Washington reiterated that Qatar had not been in touch with anyone related to the US Special Counsel investigation of Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law. 
  • In a statement, the Media Attache Jassim Al-Thani said: “Qatar has no information concerning any individuals related to the US Special Counsel’s investigation, including the Kushner family. Qatar has not been approached nor has it considered approaching the Special Counsel’s Office or any entity within the United States Government.”
  • US media had alleged that because Kushner failed to receive Qatari funding for a real estate project, the US retaliated against Qatar by supporting the blockade against it. 

Morocco – Saudi

  • Grey area: On March 18, referring to Morocco‘s neutral stance with respect to the GCC crisis, Saudi Arabia’s Sports Authority chairman and royal court adviser said: “To be in the grey area is no longer acceptable to us.”

  • He continued: “There are those who were mistaken in their direction … If you want support, it’ll be in Riyadh.”

  • World Cup: Morocco has bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026, but while FIFA member states are set to vote on their preferred host on June 13, Saudi Arabia’s Sports Authority chairman has hinted that his country may not support Morocco’s bid.

Anti-Qatar campaign

  • Lawsuit: On March 16, Qatar’s government communication office filed a lawsuit in the US against people who launched a social media campaign to spread false information about the Gulf state to harm its interests.

  • Munich: In February, the countries blockading Qatar invited journalists to a meeting calling for sanctions against Qatar. 

  • “When no one showed up, organisers reportedly hired a PR company … and the room was filled with young women who told us they were mostly from Eastern Europe,” Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra reported from Munich.

  • London: Also in February, a report on Buzzfeed revealed that a British parliamentarian was paid 15,000 British pounds ($20,700) to help organise an anti-Qatar conference in London.

Airspace defence

  • ICAO meeting: On Friday, March 16, Chairman of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority Abdulla Nasser Turki Al-Subaey met Fang Liu, secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in Doha, to discuss aviation safety in the region.

  • Military equipment: On March 15, Qatar announced that it would spend $3.71bn to buy 28 military helicopters for “enhancing the capabilities and efficiency” of the Qatari air force.

  • On March 8, the US announced the sale of air force component upgrades to Qatar, worth $197m.

  • Minutes later on Thursday, the US also announced approving a $270m deal to sell air-to-air missiles to the UAE.

Local alternatives

  • Development plan: On March 14, Qatar unveiled its strategy to “rationalise energy consumption and encourage development of renewable energy while raising self-sufficiency levels for farming and fishing production”.

  • Dairy supplies: The Qatari dairy company expects to meet local demand for fresh milk and other dairy products by the holy month of Ramadan in May.

  • Qatar had relied mainly on dairy product imports from Saudi Arabia.

  • Qatar Games: Blocked from taking part in students’ sports competitions in Dubai, Qatar has organized an alternative local sports competition, the Qatar Games.

Shared oilfield

  • On Tuesday, March 13, Qatar’s news agency announced the signing of a concession agreement with Qatar Petroleum for the continued operation of the al-Bunduq offshore oil field, shared between Qatar and the UAE.

  • From its side, sources from the UAE’s Supreme Petroleum Council said: “the concession was recently extended by each respective government to the Japanese consortium, with no direct communication or engagement between the two states.”

  • Al-Bunduq offshore oil field near Abu Dhabi was discovered in 1965 and commenced production in 1975.

  • On Sunday, March 11, the Qatar Chamber received a Jordanian business delegation in Doha to discuss opportunities for increased economic cooperation and investment. 

  • The Jordanian delegation, headed by Nael Al-Kabariti, chairman of Jordan’s Chambers of Commerce, also invited Qatari businessmen to visit Amman to explore investment and partnership opportunities with Jordanian businesses.

  • In June 2017, Jordan downgraded diplomatic relations with Qatar and closed Al Jazeera’s office in Amman.

Coup documentary

  • On Sunday, March 12, Al Jazeera aired the second part of its documentary on the financial and logistical support provided by the blockading countries’ governments to perform sabotage operations inside Qatar in 1996.

  • Al Jazeera released the first part of the documentary on Sunday, March 4, uncovering evidence of the involvement of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain in supporting a foiled coup attempt to overthrow the Qatari government in 1996. 

  • The blockading countries’ 13 demands from Qatar include “ending interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs”.

NATO agreement

  • On Wednesday, March 7, NATO and Qatar signed a military agreement that will allow NATO forces to enter and transit the country and use Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base, according to a written statement from the alliance.

  • The deal came as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg received Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the headquarters in Brussels.

  • Earlier in January, Qatar and NATO signed a security agreement for the for the exchange of classified information.

Kuwait’s letters

  • On Monday, March 5, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met Timothy Lenderking, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Gulf affairs, and retired US Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni.

  • Monday’s meeting comes after the Qatari emir received a letter from his Kuwaiti counterpart, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.

  • Al-Sabah also reportedly sent letters to two other Gulf leaders: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The contents of the letters have not been disclosed.

UNHRC session

  • On Monday, February 26, at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Qatar’s foreign minister urged the council to take action and stop the blockade imposed on Qatar by its neighbours.

  • Earlier on February 20, the United Nations High Commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein met the Chairman of Qatar National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Ali bin Samikh al-Marri in Geneva.

  • Al-Marri explained the latest humanitarian situation resulting from the blockade on Qatar and the actions taken by the National Human Rights Committee.

Credit rating

  • On February 21, Fitch ratings agency said that Qatar’s fiscal deficit is narrowing, despite the blockade. Fitch also noted that there are “signs of broader economic resilience”.

  • In August 2017, Fitch had downgraded Qatar’s credit rating to AA-.

Restored relations 

  • On Tuesday, Qatar and Chad signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) resuming diplomatic relations between the two countries, Qatar’s foreign minister said.

Munich conference

  • On Friday, in an address to the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Qatar’s emir warned that the Qatar-Gulf crisis is undermining the region’s security and economic outlook.

  • “It has been a futile crisis, manufactured by our neighbours,” Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said.

  • “Those aggressive actors wish to use smaller states as pawns within their power games and sectarian conflicts. It is vital to the interests of the people of the Middle East to guarantee the sovereignty of states like Qatar,” he added.

Tillerson in Kuwait 

  • On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the restoration of Arab Gulf unity was in the best interest of all parties in the region.

  • Tillerson made the assertion at a press conference held in Kuwait, where he is attending a high-level meeting between members of a US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Asian champions

  • On Monday, Al Gharafa of Qatar opened its Asian Championships League campaign in Abu Dhabi against Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

  • UAE had requested that the games be played in a third country, but the idea was rejected by the Asian Football Confederation which organises the tournament.

  • “Clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should be played on a home and away basis in 2018 as per the AFC regulations,” the AFC said in a recent statement. 

  • The football federations of the UAE and Saudi Arabia accepted the decision, though they expressed reservations about how it had been made.

Previous updates

  • Click here for all previous updates since the blockade started.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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