Posts Tagged ‘UAE’

Qatar limits hours, ensures pay for domestic workers

August 23, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Foreign workers have flocked to gas-rich Qatar in recent years, including an estimated almost 100,000 women working as house staff

DOHA (AFP) – Qatar has approved a law limiting domestic staff to a maximum of 10 hours work a day, the first such protection for thousands of household maids, nannies and cooks in the emirate.The “Domestic Employment Law” also orders employers to pay staff wages at the end of each month and entitles workers to at least one day off per week and an annual leave of three weeks, the Qatar News Agency reported.

They will also receive end-of-service benefits equating to a minimum of three weeks wages for each year of service when their contract ends.

The law prohibits staff being recruited from abroad who are older than 60 and younger than 18.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers have flocked to the gas-rich Gulf emirate in recent years, including almost 100,000 women working as house staff.

Other domestic workers covered by the new law include cleaners, gardeners and drivers.

The legislation was issued on Tuesday by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, QNA reported.

Although Qatar has come under severe international pressure to improve its record on the treatment of construction workers in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, until now domestic staff have not been protected by any legislation.

Critics have long campaigned for legal protection for domestic staff, with some claiming that they are subjected to working in slave-like conditions.

These included physical and sexual abuse, no wages being paid and passports being confiscated.

In 2014 it was reported that hundreds of Filipino domestic workers had sought sanctuary at their Doha embassy complaining of harsh working conditions.

The issue of ill-treatment of domestic staff stretches across the region.

In 2015 Indonesia said it would stop sending domestic staff to 21 Middle Eastern countries in protests at the treatment of maids in those countries.

The legislation comes at a time when Qatar’s laws remain under scrutiny from the International Labour Organisation.

The UN body has given Qatar until November to improve its human rights record or face sanctions.

Saudi Arabia still has many cards to play in Qatar crisis

August 22, 2017

Bloomberg

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz (left ) with Qatari Shaikh Abdullah Bin Ali Al Thani in Tangier last week. SPA photo

Dubai: A little-known Qatari shaikh has been thrust into the limelight as a Saudi Arabia-led bloc tries to wring concessions from his nation to end the political feud dividing the Arabian Gulf.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Ali Al Thani, a descendant of Qatar’s founder, was welcomed warmly in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, then jetted off to Morocco, where Saudi King Salman hosted him at his vacation spot in Tangier. And while the Qatari government said the shaikh was on a personal visit, some media outlets close to the alliance portrayed his meetings as a triumphant diplomatic effort.

Shaikh Abdullah said King Salman and his son agreed to open Qatar’s only land border, snapped shut on June 5, to allow Muslim pilgrims to travel to the holy city of Makkah. The king even offered to dispatch planes at his own expense to fly in others and set up an operations centre under the shaikh’s command to help Qataris entangled in the crisis.

Saudi Arabia and allies that severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June have denied seeking regime change in Doha, making the emergence and front-page treatment of the shaikh a surprising development. Promoting him is probably part of a plan to add pressure on Qatari ruler Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who has refused to capitulate to the bloc’s 13 conditions for ending the feud, said Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of destabilising the Middle East by supporting Islamist groups.

“Saudi Arabia has many pressure tools that it hasn’t used until now and this is one of them,” Abdullah said, adding that he doesn’t believe the alliance is currently pursuing a policy to change the Qatari leadership.

Yet should Saudi Arabia decide that is needed, it can mobilise a support network within Qatari society and the ruling family “to spur a palace coup,” he said.

Al Bayan, a Dubai-owned daily, described Shaikh Abdullah on its front page as “the voice of reason to whom the hearts of Qataris have opened.”

It also said that he’s known for being “widely accepted within the Al Thani family in particular, and Qataris in general.” The shaikh is a scion of a ruling family branch that was in power for decades until 1972. His brother, Ahmad, was deposed in 1972 by Shaikh Tamim’s grandfather, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news network said.

The shaikh’s diplomatic exploits have turned him into an instant social media celebrity. Within three days of joining Twitter, his account has attracted more than 250,000 followers. He gave out contact details of the operations center. Underscoring his reach, he said he also spoke with the Saudi central bank governor, who denied that banks in the kingdom had stopped “giving out Qatari riyals to Qatari citizens.”

“The king has honored me by accepting my mediation on behalf of my people in Qatar,” he wrote.

Other mediation efforts by Kuwait’s emir and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited the region last month, have failed to resolve the dispute.

Andreas Krieg, a lecturer in the department of defense studies at King’s College in London, said the shaikh is a London-based businessman with commercial interests in the Gulf, but lacks public support that would help propel him to power. His emergence, however, serves as a way of telling Qatari leaders and global powers that the crisis is far from over, he said.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-crisis/saudi-arabia-proves-it-has-many-cards-to-play-in-qatar-crisis-1.2078080

Saudi renews Iraq ties in bid to keep distance from Iran

August 22, 2017

AFP

© Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/File / by Ali Choukeir | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 30, 2017 shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) receiving prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia at the end of July signalled the Gulf Sunni powerhouse’s ambition to distance its Iranian foe from policy-making in Baghdad.In the wake of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Riyadh severed relations with Baghdad and closed its border posts with its northern neighbour.

Ties have remained strained even after Saddam’s ouster in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, since when successive Shiite-dominated governments in Baghdad have stayed close to Tehran.

But Sadr’s rare visit to Saudi Arabia came at the invitation of Riyadh, which played up his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Two weeks later, Sadr followed up by holding talks in Abu Dhabi with its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, strongman of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and close ally of his counterpart in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

“Hosting Sadr in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi shows regional rivals and particularly Iran that KSA/UAE are capable of tapping into and influencing intra-Shia politics in Iraq,” said Fanar Haddad, a research fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

For the Gulf monarchies, “Sadr would be a prize catch: authentically Shia-Iraqi, distrustful if not disdainful of Iran and with a genuinely organic and loyal grassroots following.”

– ‘Pulling the strings’ –

The pro-Western Arab states of the Gulf aim to show that Iran no longer holds a monopoly on influencing policy in Baghdad, according to Iraqi political scientist Hashem al-Hashemi.

Tehran “prided itself on pulling all the strings among the Shiites (of Iraq) but it seems that several strings are now beyond its grasp, like that of the Sadrists”, Hashemi said.

In June, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also a Shiite, held meetings in Saudi Arabia, four months after a visit to Baghdad by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a first of its kind since 2003.

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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (left) and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

For Michael Knights, a researcher at the Washington Institute, such interaction with Riyadh could come at a price.

“Tehran will view the Saudi Arabian engagement by Abadi and Sadr as another reason that Abadi must be displaced as premier in the 2018 elections,” said Knights.

“And Iran will work hard behind the scenes with money, media and weapons to make that happen.”

But at the same time, Haddad warned that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi should not count too heavily on Sadr to restore their influence in Baghdad at the expense of Tehran.

“They should moderate their expectations as to how much he will be willing to deliver,” he cautioned.

Tehran has played a major political, economic and military role in Baghdad since the end of Saddam’s rule, during which Shiites were barred from powerful posts and Shiite-majority Iraq fought a 1980-1988 war against Shiite but non-Arab Iran.

According to the Carnegie Middle East Center, Iranian exports, not including fuel, tripled between 2008 and 2015 to reach $6.2 billion.

Apart from military advisers on the ground in Iraq, Iran also sponsors several armed groups, in particular the paramilitary Hashed al-Shaabi units that are playing a key role in fighting the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

On his return from Saudi Arabia, Sadr renewed calls for the dismantling of armed groups, a stance which “makes him particularly attractive to KSA/UAE”, said Haddad.

But the firebrand cleric, whose own armed supporters fought fierce battles against US and government forces in the wake of the invasion, has steered clear of openly condemning Hashed al-Shaabi, which was set up at the request of the Shiite religious hierarchy in post-Saddam Iraq.

– Arar starting point –

Furthermore, Haddad stressed, a warming in ties between Riyadh and Sadr cannot be compared to close relations between two states.

“We’re still a long way from Iraqi-Saudi relations coming anywhere near the depth or complexity of Iraqi-Iranian ties,” he said.

But in a first decisive step, Riyadh and Baghdad have announced plans to reopen the Arar desert crossing, their main border post and a potential alternative to Iraq’s posts with Iran that are used for most of its imports.

The border has been shut for most of the past three decades to all travellers except Iraqi Muslim pilgrims heading to and from Mecca in western Saudi Arabia.

The announcement was made during a joint inspection of the Arar post by Iraqi and Saudi officials as well as Brett McGurk, the senior US envoy to the international coalition fighting IS.

by Ali Choukeir

Qatar denies blocking Saudi hajj pilgrimage flights

August 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Saudi Arabian Airlines on Sunday said Qatari authorities had refused to grant a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, scheduled to transport Qatari hajj pilgrims, permission to land at Hamad International Airport

DOHA (AFP) – Qatar on Monday denied it had banned Saudi Arabian flights from landing in the emirate to transport Muslim pilgrims to Mecca, after an accusation by authorities in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabian Airlines on Sunday said Qatari authorities had refused to grant a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, scheduled to transport Qatari hajj pilgrims, permission to land at Hamad International Airport.

The flight is one of a select few that will allow Qataris to land in Saudi Arabia, which last week temporarily opened its borders to pilgrims to the Saudi city of Mecca, the most revered site in Islam, more than two months into a diplomatic crisis that has seen Riyadh cut all ties with Qatar and ban its citizens from entering.

An official source in the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority on Monday “described as baseless the news… that allegedly claimed that the state of Qatar refused to allow Saudi Airlines to transport the Qatari pilgrims,” according to a report carried on the state-run QNA news agency.

Qatar’s civil aviation authority confirmed that it had received a request from the Saudi carrier for permission to land and had referred the airline to the ministry of Islamic affairs “in accordance with past practices”.

The hajj to Mecca, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once, takes place at the start of September this year. It is expected to draw around two million Muslims from around the world.

The pilgrimage has turned into a point of contestation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are locked in a diplomatic crisis that has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies cut all ties with Doha over accusations of state support for Islamist extremist groups and ties to Shiite Iran.

Qatar has denied the allegations.

Saudi Arabia last month said Qatari pilgrims would be allowed to enter the kingdom for this year’s hajj but imposed several travel restrictions, including flying in only on airlines approved by Riyadh.

The move sparked a backlash in Doha, where authorities said the pilgrimage had been used as political ammunition.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5 in what has become the worst political crisis to grip the Gulf region in decades.

Related:

Saudi says Qatar blocks planes from transporting pilgrims to Mecca

August 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A file photo from July 20, 2017 shows a Qatar Airways plane on the runway at Hamad International Airport in Doha
RIYADH (AFP) – Qatar has blocked Saudi planes from transporting hajj pilgrims, Saudi state media said Sunday, after Riyadh reopened the border despite a major diplomatic crisis roiling the Gulf.Riyadh last week reopened its land border with Qatar and allocated seven flights of the Saudi national carrier to bring pilgrims from Doha, in a temporary lifting of a weeks-long boycott of its Gulf neighbour.

“Qatari authorities have not allowed the aircraft to land as it did not have the right paperwork, although the paperwork was filed days ago,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

“Saudi Arabian Airlines director general Saleh al-Jasser has said that the airline has thus far been unable to schedule flights to transport Qatari pilgrims from Hamad International Airport in Doha,” SPA added.

Image result for Saudi Arabian Airlines, photos

The reopening of the border initially sparked hope of a thawing in the Gulf crisis, which saw Saudi Arabia and its allies cut diplomatic ties with Doha in June over accusations that the emirate supported Islamist extremists.

Qatar has denied the allegation.

But even as Doha cautiously welcomed the reopening of the border, it blasted the move as “politically motivated”.

Doha has also accused Riyadh of jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca by refusing to guarantee the safety of Qatari citizens.

Its delay — or refusal — to grant landing rights to Saudi planes could now further stoke tensions.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5 in what has become the worst political crisis to grip the Gulf region in decades.

Saudi Arabia last month said Qatari pilgrims would be allowed to enter the kingdom for hajj this year but imposed several travel restrictions, including flying in only on airlines approved by Riyadh.

The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once, is to take place this year at the start of September and it is expected to draw around two million Muslims from around the world.

With a Wary Eye on Iran, Saudi and Iraqi Leaders Draw Closer

August 16, 2017

BAGHDAD/DUBAI — It was an unusual meeting: an Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim cleric openly hostile to the United States sat in a palace sipping juice at the invitation of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Sunni kingdom that is Washington’s main ally in the Middle East.

For all the implausibility, the motivations for the July 30 gathering in Jeddah between Moqtada al-Sadr and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman run deep, and center on a shared interest in countering Iranian influence in Iraq.

For Sadr, who has a large following among the poor in Baghdad and southern Iraqi cities, it was part of efforts to bolster his Arab and nationalist image ahead of elections where he faces Shi’ite rivals close to Iran.

For the newly elevated heir to the throne of conservative Saudi Arabia, the meeting, and talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in June, are an attempt to build alliances with Iraqi Shi’ite leaders in order to roll back Iranian influence.

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (R) receives Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 19, 2017. (photo by REUTERS/Bandar Algaloud)

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/iraq-saudi-iran-kuwait-is-mosul-abadi.html#ixzz4pvY9nc4G

“Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a bold shift of his policy to deliver a message to regional, influential Sunni states that not all Shi’ite groups carry the label ‘Made in Iran’,” said Baghdad-based analyst Ahmed Younis.

This policy has assumed greater prominence now that Islamic State has been driven back in northern Iraq, giving politicians time to focus on domestic issues ahead of provincial council elections in September and a parliamentary vote next year.

“This is both a tactical and strategic move by Sadr. He wants to play the Saudis off against the Iranians, shake down both sides for money and diplomatic cover,” said Ali Khedery, who was a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors in Iraq.

“NECESSARY EVIL”

Ultimately, Sadr seeks a leadership role in Iraq that would allow him to shape events without becoming embroiled in daily administration, which could erode his popularity, diplomats and analysts say.

Such a role – religious guide and political kingmaker – would fit with the patriarchal status the Sadr religious dynasty has for many Shi’ite Arabs in Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Days after the Jeddah meeting, Sadr met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who has also taken an assertive line against Tehran, the dominant foreign power in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion ended Sunni minority rule.

Iran has since increased its regional influence, with its forces and allied militias spearheading the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and holding sway in Baghdad.

For Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the bastion of Sunni Islam, less Iranian influence in Iraq would be a big win in a rivalry that underpins conflict across the Middle East.

“There are plans to secure peace and reject sectarianism in the region,” Sadr told the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper last week, and it was “necessary to bring Iraq back into the Arab fold”.

Washington supports the Saudi-Iraq rapprochement, but the embracing of Sadr raises questions about whether it sees a man known for his anti-Americanism as a reliable figure.

“It is perhaps close to a necessary evil,” a U.S. official said of the visit, although it was a “very uncomfortable position for us to be in” due to the Sadr’s anti-Americanism, which had led to the deaths of U.S. citizens.

“His visits to the region, and broadly the high profile visits by Iraq, those things broadly are good, in that they get Iraq facing the Gulf nations and they help to turn their attention away from Iran,” the official said.

LIMITED INFLUENCE

A politician close to Sadr said the Jeddah meeting was aimed at building confidence and toning down sectarian rhetoric between the two countries.

The rapprochement is “a careful testing of the waters with the Abadi government and some of the Shia centers of influence like Sadr and, the interior minister,” said Ali Shihabi, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arabia Foundation.

How far detente can go is unclear: Iran has huge political, military and economic influence in Iraq. Saudi Arabia is playing catch-up, having reopened an embassy in Baghdad only in 2015 after a 25-year break caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Whatever the Saudis and Gulf states do, “Iran will stay the key player in Iraq for at least the next 10 years,” said Wathiq al-Hashimi, chairman of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies think-tank.

Khedery said Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states were not skilled at exerting external influence.

“They usually just throw money at issues and the beneficiaries of that largesse become very, very wealthy and that’s it,” he said. The Iranians in Iraq offered intelligence, diplomatic support and cash and wielded “big sticks” against anyone stepping out of line, he said.

Still, the Jeddah meeting has produced practical results.

Sadr’s office said there was an agreement to study investment in Shi’ite regions of southern Iraq. Riyadh will also consider opening a consulate in Iraq’s holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, Sadr’s base.

Saudi Arabia would donate $10 million to help Iraqis displaced by the war on Islamic State in Iraq, Sadr said, while Iraq’s oil minister said Riyadh had discussed building hospitals in Basra and Baghdad.

After the Saudi trip, Sadr again urged the Iraqi government to dismantle the Tehran-backed Shi’ite paramilitary groups involved in the fight against Islamic State – a theme that is expected to become a top election issue.

A source from Sadr’s armed group told Reuters that after the visit orders were issued to remove anti-Saudi banners from its headquarters, vehicles and streets.

Sadr had called on the Saudis to “stop hostile speeches by fanatical hardline clerics who describe Shi’ites as infidels,” and Crown Prince Mohammed had promised efforts towards this, the politician close to Sadr said.

It remains to be seen how far Saudi Arabia can prevent anti-Shi’ite outbursts by its media or on social media, since Wahhabism, the kingdom’s official ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim school, regards Shi’ism as heretical.

But Saudi minister of state for Gulf affairs Thamer al-Subhan called for tolerance after greeting Sadr, using Twitter to decry “Sunni extremism and Shi’ite extremism”.

Saudi Arabia this week cracked down on Twitter users including a radical Sunni cleric who had published insulting comments about Shi’ites.

WIDER RAPPROCHEMENT

As part of the wider detente, Iraq and Saudi Arabia announced last month they are setting up a council to upgrade strategic relations.

The Saudi cabinet has approved a joint trade commission to look at investment while a Saudi daily reported the countries planned to reopen a border crossing shut for more than 25 years – a point raised by Sadr on his visit.

Another sign of rapprochement is an agreement to increase direct flights to a daily basis. Iraqi Airways hopes to reopen offices in Saudi airports to help Iraqis travel to the kingdom, especially for pilgrimages, Iraq’s transport ministry said.

Then there is coordination on energy policy.

As OPEC producers, the two cooperated in November to support oil prices. Their energy ministers discussed bilateral cooperation and investment last week.

Iranian reaction to the meetings has been minimal.

“Iraqi personalities and officials do not need our permission to travel outside of Iraq or to report to us,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said last week, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

(Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli in Erbil, William Maclean and Rania El Gamal in Dubai and Yara Bayoumy in Washington; editing by Giles Elgood)

Qatar’s economy still strong despite Saudi-led multi-nation boycott

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Aymeric Vincenot | Qatar’s economy has been hit by the sanctions imposed by a Saudi-led Arab bloc but the emirate’s economy is strong enough to survive, argue local and international analysts
DOHA (AFP) – Qatar’s economy has been hit by the sanctions imposed by a Saudi-led Arab bloc but the emirate’s economy is strong enough to survive, analysts say.

Since June 5, Saudi Arabia and allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorists” and of being too close to Iran.

Qatar, denying the charges, accuses its Gulf neighbours of seeking to strangle its economy.

The heavily air-conditioned malls of Doha, a city in the throes of a $200-plus billion construction boom as it aims to make a splash on the world stage by hosting football’s 2022 World Cup, remain busy as ever, as do its roads.

To counter the sanctions and trading curbs, ally Turkey and neighbouring Iran have been pouring in food supplies by air and sea.

“In the medium- to long-term, perhaps people who live here will feel” the effects, but for the time being, “we haven’t felt any big difference”, said Mohamed Ammar, who heads the Qatari Businessmen Association.

For Rashid bin Ali al-Mansoori, CEO of the Qatar Stock Exchange, the worst is already over. The second most highly-capitalised bourse in the Middle East plunged seven percent on June 5 and lost almost 10 percent in the first three days.

“We were surprised and the market also was surprised, so the market really reacted to the news like any other market of course,” he said.

But “the Qatar economy is very strong, it’s the strongest economy in the region… investor trust and confidence in the market is still there,” said Mansoori.

The level, however, remains around six percent lower than during pre-crisis Qatar.

And analysts are predicting a long drawn-out crisis which will affect investor confidence, with Bloomberg assessing at the end of July that Qatar’s economy was showing “the strain”.

“Data released last week showed that foreign deposits at Qatar’s banks fell the most in almost two years last month as customers withdrew funds, pressuring liquidity available locally for businesses and the government,” it said.

Amy McAlister of consultancy firm Oxford Economics said central bank data showed reserves were running at their lowest level since May 2012, a slide of 30 percent compared with June 2016.

“Uncertainty will have prompted banks and portfolio investment funds to withdraw money from Qatar, leading to a fall in reserves as the central bank tries to ease liquidity pressures,” she said.

“The central bank will have also depleted reserves to support the currency peg to the US dollar, which has seen pressure since the dispute began.”

– ‘Most resilient in Mideast’ –

Oxford Economics has revised its growth outlook for 2017 down to 1.4 percent, compared with 3.4 percent before the Gulf crisis, and re-evaluated inflation at 1.8 percent, up from the anticipated 1.5 percent, because of higher import costs.

Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded their credit ratings for Qatar.

But analysts have faith in the capacity of Qatar, holder of the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves after giants Russia and Iran, to withstand a long crisis.

“Qatar is the most resilient country in the Middle East by far,” said Andreas Krieg, a strategic risk analyst and assistant professor at King’s College London university.

“They are very determined to see this through. Unlike the other countries, they have the most stable economy and the most stable financial situation.

“The per capita reserves they have are the greatest in the world. Even if they have to liquidate some of their investments overseas, they could do but, at this point, this is not on the books,” he said.

The tiny emirate with a population of 2.6 million, 80 percent of them foreigners, ranks as the world’s richest on a per-capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

It holds a staggering $330 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, with assets heavily invested abroad.

“It is worth pointing out that these reserves do not include the foreign assets of the sovereign wealth fund, so the wider impact may not be as significant as the sharp drop initially suggests,” said McAlistair.

For McAlistair, despite uncertainty over the timeframe of the crisis, “Qatar will likely be able to withstand economic sanctions for many years”.

by Aymeric Vincenot

‘Lot of time’ needed to rebuild trust in Gulf: Qatar FM

August 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by David Harding | “Qatar has always been one of the founders of the GCC organisation and we still consider that this has a great importance for all of us in the region,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said
DOHA (AFP) – Qatar’s foreign minister said Tuesday it will take a “lot of time” to rebuild any trust between sparring Gulf countries because of the region’s continuing diplomatic crisis.

As the impasse between Doha and four Arab states led by Saudi Arabia entered its 11th week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said regional relations had been transformed by the dispute.

“Qatar has always been one of the founders of the GCC organisation and we still consider that this has a great importance for all of us in the region,” he told reporters.

Created in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic union comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“This organisation has been built on a strategical security and been built on trust.

“Unfortunately, what happened lately with this crisis, this factor is missing now and needs a lot of time to rebuild the trust again.

“We hope that it’s restored.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 — accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran — triggering the biggest political crisis in the Gulf for several years.

Doha denies the claims and accuses the other countries of an attack on its sovereignty.

The Saudi-led countries have also imposed sanctions including restrictions on Qatari aircraft using their airspace.

The foreign minister added that the conflict was unnecessary.

“Such a crisis is not needed in our region, we have enough problems and enough conflict.

“A region like the Gulf region, which was considered the most stable region in the Arab world is now destabilised because… of a crisis without a solid foundation.”

However, he added that diplomatic efforts led by regional mediator Kuwait were continuing.

“We have received a letter from the Emir of Kuwait a few days ago. And this letter is a continuous effort… to encourage the parties to engage in dialogue.”

Despite this, Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was still waiting to hear from its rivals.

“Put up your claims and put up your evidence. We told them (Saudi-led countries) anywhere you want, whatever evidence you have, just put it on the table.

“Now its been 72 days since the first day of their measures and we have not been provided with a single document.”

Experts have speculated that the diplomatic uncertainty in the region will lead to the demise of the GCC.

One, Andreas Krieg, a political risk analyst at King’s College London, told AFP that the GCC was “dying by the day”.

“The Kuwaiti emir is a great believer in the GCC and will do everything he can to resolve the crisis to save the GCC.

“However, realistically, the GCC cannot survive this crisis,” he said.

by David Harding

Drilling ship leaves Vietnam oil block after China row

August 14, 2017

Reuters

HANOI (Reuters) – The drilling ship at the center of a row between Vietnam and China over oil prospecting in disputed waters in the South China Sea has arrived in waters off the Malaysian port of Labuan, shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon showed on Monday.

Drilling by the Deepsea Metro I ship was suspended in Vietnam’s Block 136/3 last month after pressure from China, which says the concession operated by Spain’s Repsol overlaps the vast majority of the waterway that it claims as its own.

The ship, used by Norway’s Odfjell Drilling Ltd., was reported to be in Labuan at 9.17 a.m. (0117 GMT), according to shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon. It was last recorded at the drilling site on July 30.

Odfjell Drilling did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

The row over the drilling inflamed tensions between Vietnam and China, whose claims in the South China Sea are disputed by five Southeast Asian countries.

Repsol said last month that drilling had been suspended after the company spent $27 million on the well. Co-owners of the block are Vietnam’s state oil firm and Mubadala Development Co of the United Arab Emirates.

The block lies inside the U-shaped “nine-dash line” that marks the area that China claims in the sea.

China had urged a halt to the exploration work and a diplomatic source with direct knowledge of the situation said that the decision to suspend drilling was taken after a Vietnamese delegation visited Beijing.

Vietnam has never confirmed that drilling started or that it was suspended, but last month defended its right to explore in the area.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, where more than $3 trillion in cargo passes every year, and China was also angered by Vietnam’s stand at a regional meeting last week.

Vietnam held out for language that noted concern about island-building and criticized militarization in South China Sea in the communique from foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Reporting by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Richard Pullin

Qatar Will Not Be Intimidated

August 14, 2017

It’s time to resolve the dispute, which is driven by Saudi and Emirati hypocrisy.

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Aug. 13, 2017 5:48 p.m. ET

As the Gulf crisis enters its third month, it is clear the blockade against Qatar has not succeeded.

If Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—the countries driving the confrontation, despite the appearance of a unified bloc—hoped to bring Qatar to its knees, they have failed. If they hoped to damage Qatar’s reputation and improve their own, they have failed. If they hoped to enhance their relationship with the U.S. at Qatar’s expense, again, they have failed.

Instead, the anti-Qatar smear campaign has put a spotlight on the shameful history and unsavory practices of the Saudis and Emiratis themselves. Saudi Arabia justifies the blockade by alleging that Qatari authorities “support extremists and terrorist organizations.” But the accusation only reminds observers that the Saudis have consistently failed to prevent the radicalization of their citizens.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis. Thousands of Saudi citizens have taken up arms to join Islamic State and other radical groups. Saudi textbooks are used in ISIS schools. Many of the five dozen groups that the U.S. State Department designates as terror organizations are funded by Saudi nationals.

The Emirates have taken a similarly hypocritical stance. While the U.A.E. falsely portrays itself as America’s best ally in the region, its track record is no better than Saudi Arabia’s. Two Emiratis participated in the Sept. 11 hijackings, and the staff report to the 9/11 Commission revealed that much of the funding for the attacks flowed through the U.A.E., which was a world hub for money laundering.

The U.A.E. has fared no better with regard to freedom of speech and press. In 2014 authorities arrested a man for plotting a terrorist attack on a Formula One racetrack in Abu Dhabi. But the Emirates prohibitedinternational media outlets from reporting on the trial. The U.A.E.’s recent clampdown on free speech has been widely condemned, especially after the country’s Justice Ministry said in June that supporting Qatar on social media could be punishable by fines and even prison time.

Meanwhile, leaked emails show that Emirati officials were conspiring with a variety of interest groups and lobbyists on a campaign to slander Qatar long before the blockade was imposed. Now intelligence experts and Qatar’s cybersecurity services have identified the U.A.E. as the perpetrator of the hacking of Qatar News Agency, which set the entire Gulf crisis in motion.

Surely this kind of publicity can’t be what the Saudis and Emiratis hoped for when they instigated this crisis. Yet the longer the blockade goes on, the more damaging information the world will learn about them—and the more difficult it will be to resolve their differences with Qatar.

It’s time to abandon the public-relations campaigns, the blockade, the ultimatums and the pressure tactics and meet at the negotiating table, so we can broker a fair and just resolution to the Gulf crisis.

Mr. Al-Gahtani is special envoy for Qatar’s foreign minister for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution.

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