BLOCKADE DURATION

275 days

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

Here are the latest developments as of Wednesday, March 7:

UAE lobby

  • On Monday, March 5, leaked emails obtained by the BBC suggested Elliot Broidy, 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.

Kuwait’s emir letters

  • On Monday, March 5, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani  met with 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.

Coup documentary

  • On Sunday, March 4, Al Jazeera released a documentary that uncovered evidence of the involvement of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain in supporting a foiled coup attempt to overthrow the Qatari government in 1996.
  • In the blockading countries 13 demands from Qatar, is the demand to “end interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs.”
WATCH: Qatar coup documentary

Jared Kushner

  • On Saturday, March 3, Qatar’s Ambassador Meshal Hamad Al Thani said on Twitter that Qatar had not been in touch with anyone from the US special counsel’s office, adding that any reporting claiming the contrary was false.
  • The response came after US media reported that the US special counsel was looking into possible ties between the international business of Jared Kushner, US  President’s Donald Trump son-in-law, and Trump’s foreign policy.
  • It is alleged that Kushner failed to receive Qatari funding for a real estate project and that because of this the US retaliated against Qatar by supporting its blockade.

Trump’s mediation

  • On Thursday, March 1, blockading countries issued a joint statement claiming that the Gulf crisis is a “small” problem that needs to be resolved locally by the mediation of Kuwait.
  • Earlier on Wednesday, the Qatari government announced that Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will attend a meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, in April.
  • On February 24, a US official quoted by Reuters news agency said that senior Saudi, Emirati and Qatari leaders will meet the US president in the next couple of months.
  • Talks will revolve around the possibility of establishing a GCC summit under Washington’s auspices later this year, as well as around the role of Iran in the region.

UNHCR session

  • On Monday, February 26, at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council (UNHCR) 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 Raad 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 has said.

Qatar Airways

  • On Tuesday, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker sent a message to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) saying that the body needs to do more to resolve restrictions on air routes stemming from the Gulf crisis.
  •  He also said his airline could nevertheless sustain itself even if the crisis dragged on.
  • On Monday, Italian airline carrier 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.
  • Together with Qatar Airways, Meridiana said it will expand its fleet with 50 new planes to carry 10 million passengers.
  • Qatar’s blockading countries have targeted Qatar Airways by forbidding it from using their airspace, but Qatar Airways has, nonetheless, found alternative routes and expanded its travel network with new international partnerships.

Arab summit

  • On Monday, Qatar’s foreign minister confirmed that Qatar would attend the upcoming Arab summit regardless of where it is held: “The state that will host this summit, if it was a [blockade participant] and did not provide the necessary action, it will be the one in violation and not Qatar.”
  • In March, Saudi Arabia announced that it would host the next Arab summit, following the UAE’s request to do so. The summit is usually held in March each year, but the date of the next summit has yet to be formally announced.

Munich Security 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.

Anti-Qatar campaign

  • Also on Friday, Qatar’s blockading countries 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.
  • Earlier 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.

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 Championships League

  • 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 requested to play those games in a third country, but the idea was rejected by the Asian Football Confederation which organises the tournament, featuring 32 teams split into eight groups of four.
  • “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.
Counting the cost of the Qatar-Gulf crisis

COUNTING THE COST

Counting the cost of the Qatar-Gulf crisis

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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