Here are the latest developments:
- According to a senior White House official, Trump wanted to urge Mohammed bin Salman to find a solution to the Gulf crisis.
- Trump will press the Saudis “to take a key leadership role in the region and encourage them to help move this dispute forward”, the official said, adding that Trump believes it is critical that there is unity among the Gulf states.
- After the Saudi crown prince meeting, Trump is scheduled to meet with Qatar’s emir in April, and the UAE’s crown prince after that.
- US-GCC summit: 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 have been sent.
- On March 1, the blockading countries issued a joint statement claiming the Gulf crisis was a “small” problem that needed to be resolved locally with Kuwaiti mediation.
- On March 19, Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner confirmed to the Washington Post that his company met with Qatari officials in 2017, but nothing came out of it.
- On March 14, the Qatari embassy in Washington reiterated that Qatar has not been in touch with anyone related to the US Special Counsel office 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 its blockade.
Morocco – Saudi
- Grey area: On March 18, referring to Morocco’s neutral stance with respect to the GCC crisis, Saudi Arabia’s Sports Authority’s chairman and royal court adviser said: “To be in the grey area is no longer acceptable to us.”
- He continued saying: “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’s chairman has hinted that his country may not support Morocco’s bid.
- Investigation: On March 17, Qatar’s central bank has 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.
- In December, the governor of Qatar’s Central Bank said that it hired a New York-based law firm to investigate the UAE’s “coordinated strategy” to harm its economy.
- 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.
- ICAO meeting: On Friday, March 16, Chairman of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority Abdulla Nasser Turki Al-Subaey met with Fang Liu the Secretary-General of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in Doha, to discussed aviation safety in the region.
- Airspace violations: On March 15, Qatar’s Permanent Representative to the UN Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani addressed a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the president of the UN Security Council, Karel Van Oosterom, saying that a UAE military cargo plane violated Qatari airspace on March 4.
- On March 10, Qatar informed the United Nations Security Council of more airspace violations committed by aircraft of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, there have been three such violations in four months.
- Military equipment: On March 15, Qatar announced that it will be spending $3.71bn to buy 28 military helicopters to “enhancing the capabilities and efficiency” of the Qatari air force.
- On March 8, the United States announced the sale of air force components 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.
- 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: 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- On Sunday, March 12, Turkey’s Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar arrived in Qatar as part of an official visit, the Turkish military said in a statement. Akar is accompanied by the Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces Vice Admiral Adnan Ozbal.
- On January 31, Fikret Ozer, Turkish ambassador to Qatar, said the country plans to deploy air and naval forces to Qatar in addition to ground troops that are already stationed in the country.
- “According to the agreement signed between Qatar and Turkey in 2014, all ground, air, and naval forces will be deployed to Qatar,” he told reporters at a press conference in Doha. Ankara and Doha would determine the “timeline of the construction of the necessary infrastructure and when these forces will be deployed through talks”, he said.
- Losses: On Wednesday, March 7, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker told reporters at the ITB travel fair in Berlin that the airline will report a “very large loss.”
- Earlier in February, al-Baker sent a message to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) saying the body needed to do more to lift restrictions on air routes stemming from the Gulf crisis.
- He also said his airline could nevertheless sustain itself even if the crisis dragged on.
- Air Italy: Also in February, 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 countries imposing a blockade on Qatar 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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-.
- On Tuesday, Qatar and Chad signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) resuming diplomatic relations between the two countries, Qatar’s foreign minister said.
Moments ago MOU was signed between #Qatar & #Chad; Diplomatic Relations to be resumed with immediate exchange of ambassadors. A victory for both countries’ diplomacy;one that is based on the principles of dialogue & common interests that bring peace and prosperity to both nations pic.twitter.com/Zmz13fAXSD
— لولوة راشد الخاطر (@Lolwah_Alkhater) February 20, 2018
- 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 that it 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.
World order won’t be reformed without a serious and firm resolve by the world leaders to preserve human rights, security and stability world-wide and in the Middle East in particular. I made this clear in the #MSC2018today. pic.twitter.com/8WYi8MykDX
— تميم بن حمد (@TamimBinHamad) February 16, 2018
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 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.
- Click here for all previous updates since the blockade started.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES