Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

Kuwait, Qatar Hold talks in Doha

October 19, 2017

Meeting reviews efforts to resolve Gulf crisis

Image Credit: Kuna
Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Shaikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Published: 18:21 October 19, 2017

Manama: Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah discussed in Doha the latest developments regarding the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis, the official news agencies of both countries said.

According to the reports, Shaikh Sabah and the delegation accompanying him on the hours-long trip also reviewed with Shaikh Tamim “the close and brotherly relations between the two countries as well as regional and international issues”.

The talks were held a few days after Kuwait’s Emir went to the Saudi capital Riyadh where he met King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to discuss the Qatar crisis and the latest developments in the region.

Kuwait has been mediating since Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in June 5 severed their diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar after they accused it of supporting extremists and funding terrorism. The Quarter issued 13 demands that they wanted Qatar to meet, but Doha has rejected them resulting in the prolonged stalemate.

Despite the international support for the mediation, no breakthrough has been achieved yet.

Kuwait has resumed its mediation ahead of a major decision related to the annual summit held by the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are members. Oman is the sixth member country.

The summit is scheduled for December in Kuwait, but following the fissure within the GCC, the chances of holding it are dimming although Kuwait has said that it was ready to host the annual gathering of the only vigorous Arab alliance.

Reports said the summit could be delayed, cancelled or shifted to Riyadh, the headquarters of the GCC, but without the participation of Qatar.


United Arab Emirates says to announce government reshuffle on Thursday

October 19, 2017


DUBAI (Reuters) – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, said in a tweet a government reshuffle will be announced later on Thursday.

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FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum attends the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Hamed

Malaysia rolls out red carpet for Qatar’s emir

October 16, 2017

Malaysia on Monday rolled out the red carpet for Qatar’s emir, who is on his first trip to Southeast Asia four months after a diplomatic crisis erupted between his nation and four Arab countries.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur late Sunday, was given a 21-gun salute at a state welcoming ceremony in Parliament attended by Malaysia’s king, Prime Minister Najib Razak and Cabinet ministers.

Sheikh Tamim later held talks with Najib, after which they witnessed the signing of agreements on training for diplomats, higher education, and legal and judicial cooperation.

The emir was to meet Malaysia’s king, followed by a state banquet at the palace before leaving late Monday.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar on June 5 due to its close ties with Iran and alleged support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. They also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the small country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.

The emir’s visit to Malaysia comes eight months after Saudi Arabian King Salman visited, the first trip to the Southeast Asian country by a Saudi king in more than a decade.

The Gulf crisis puts predominantly Muslim Malaysia in a tight spot because it is close to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Najib in July backed Kuwait’s effort to mediate the crisis and called for a swift solution.

“We pray that all differences among our Arab brothers will be settled amicably and that the unity and harmony of the (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries can be restored,” Najib said in a statement.

The emir, who will also travel to Singapore and Indonesia, is on his second trip abroad since the diplomatic crisis erupted. He traveled to Turkey, Germany, France and the United States in September.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it was the first visit by a ruling Qatari emir since Shekih Tamim’s father visited Malaysia in 2009. It said the visit provided an opportunity for the leaders to discuss bilateral issues and exchange views on issues of common interest.

Qatar is Malaysia’s 40th largest trading partner, with total trade of $566 million in 2016.

Qatar crisis sends tremors through banking in the Gulf

October 13, 2017

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By Simeon Kerr

While north Africa and the Levant have been beset by revolt and civil war in Syria and Libya in recent years, the Gulf states have remained a haven of relative stability. However, the political isolation of gas-rich Qatar this year has brought uncertainty to oil-wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council nations already suffering economic damage from the crude price collapse three years ago.

In June, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led Bahrain and Egypt in closing airports and seaports to Qatar, claiming it fostered terrorism. Doha denies this but is now isolated from the leading GCC powers.

Travel and trade restrictions leave Qatar facing significant costs, with credit rating agency Moody’s saying the its future depends on the outcome of the crisis. “The severity of the diplomatic dispute between Gulf countries is unprecedented, which magnifies the uncertainty over the ultimate economic, fiscal and social impact on the GCC as a whole,” says Steffen Dyck, a senior credit officer at Moody’s.

Bankers are adjusting to a likely protracted dispute, in addition to lower government spending that has constrained growth in the region since oil prices collapsed.

As banks from the four nations began removing term deposits held in Qatar, Doha drew on its vast wealth to sustain its economy. Moody’s says Qatar injected almost $40bn out of reserves of $340bn to support its economy and financial system during the first two months of the dispute.

Before the crisis, overseas customer deposits made up about a quarter of all deposit funding in the banking sector but that has fallen to an estimated 18-19 per cent, according to Fitch, the rating agency. In June and July, there were large net outflows of non-domestic customer deposits of $8bn and of overseas deposits and borrowings of $15bn, according to official data. More outflows of GCC money are expected as deposits mature, Fitch says.

However, in that period the government and public sector have placed deposits in the banking system of about $19bn, while central bank support amounted to $9bn, Fitch says.

“Fundamentally, the outflow of non-domestic money is being replaced by an inflow of domestic money,” says Redmond Ramsdale, a senior director of financial institutions at Fitch Ratings. Fitch says overseas money is starting to return. Central bank statistics show overall funding for the Qatari banking sector rose in August, up 1 per cent on July.

Asian banks have been rolling over deposits, albeit at higher premiums of 25 to 30 basis points. Qatar National Bank closed a $630m Formosa bond issue in Taiwan in September, signalling confidence among many Asian investors. “We are extending our lines of credit to Qatari clients,” says one banker with an Asian institution. “There is good money to be made.”

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Most international lenders have continued normal relations with Qatar. “We are a global bank operating across a broad political spectrum, we are not party to any dispute,” says a senior banker with a European lender. “So we will abide by any international sanctions, but beyond that it is business as usual.”

As global finance adjusts to the new geopolitical realities, Qatar will have to pay five to 10 basis points more than before the crisis to raise money on capital markets, says one banker with a US institution. “The credit needs to be reset and the sovereign needs to issue first. But Qatar is a small country, sitting on large reserves . . . so we aren’t concerned.”

Some officials in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, have called on international companies to choose between the UAE and Qatar. Bankers say UAE-owned institutions are reluctant to grant mandates to banks with significant Qatari shareholders. And some foreign bankers are worried about losing business in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We have to be very careful about being seen to do business with Qatar,” says another Asian banker.

The sense that regional businesses are being forced to take sides is a problem for some bankers in the Dubai International Financial Centre. “No one wins from this situation and we all pay a price . . . there is a regional impact,” says the European banker.

The DIFC, a special economic zone that is a base for more than 21,000 workers and 1,750 companies, positions itself as the regional launch pad for international financiers. The centre grew at 6 per cent in the first half of 2017, despite fears that the cost of doing business in Dubai makes the city less competitive in the tougher trading climate with lower oil prices.

Doha airport, once an hour’s hop from Dubai, is now reached via Oman or Kuwait. This means Qatari clients cannot travel to the UAE to meet financiers and manage portfolios.

Executives fear that Dubai will be hit by the collapse in trade with Qatar, once a main export destination for construction materials. Qatar is in the middle of a $200bn infrastructure investment for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s imports slumped by 40 per cent year on year for June 2017 as the boycott bit. Imports from the UAE fell by two-thirds in the same month, illustrating its importance as an import-export hub for Doha.

Much of this re-export business has moved to Oman, which — like Kuwait — has remained neutral. Imports rebounded in August, showing Qatar’s ability to limit the embargo’s impact by switching supply routes. “The Qatar crisis will not bring Dubai down, but it is natural to expect an impact,” says the European banker.

Officials concede that Dubai cannot disentangle itself from the UAE’s role in the embargo. The UAE central bank ordered lenders in the federation to impose enhanced due diligence measures on six Qatari lenders. The DIFC’s regulator has also told entities operating in the centre to follow these measures, according to a document seen by the FT.

Some DIFC entities have expressed concern about a requirement to detail compliance procedures relating to their dealings with well-known lenders including Qatar National Bank, one of the region’s largest. “I thought we’d signed up to an international financial centre,” says one western banker. “Not one exposed to local politics.”

Mideast nations turn to private sector after oil slump

October 11, 2017


© AFP/File | Oil-rich governments across the Middle East, including in Kuwait whose Shuaiba oil refinery is seen here, are increasingly relying on the private sector for investment

DUBAI (AFP) – Oil-rich governments from Tripoli to Tehran are increasingly relying on the private sector in a key change across the Middle East and North Africa, a report said Wednesday.

The value of public-private partnership (PPP) projects across the region, including those still in the pipeline, has more than doubled to $185 billion (155 billion euros) over the past year, the Dubai-based Middle East Economic Digest wrote.

The sharp increase comes as governments have ramped up efforts to get the private sector involved in financing, building and operating public infrastructure projects in a bid to offset shrinking income from oil since crude prices began to fall in mid-2014.

“The rise of PPP over the past few years is one of the most strategically significant shifts in the business landscape of the Middle East since the nationalisation of the oil industry in the early 1970s,” the report said.

Kuwait topped the list with joint projects worth $44.4 billion, followed by Libya with $36 billion, the United Arab Emirates with $27.6 billion and Iran with $14.3 billion worth of projects.

The figures exclude any investments in the key energy sector.

The report said that nearly two-thirds of the projects, worth around $100 billion, are in the planning stages and are expected to be awarded in the next five to six years.

Countries across the region, especially those in the Gulf, have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in oil income due to the slide of crude prices.

UAE Official Urges Qatar to Give Up World Cup to End Crisis

October 9, 2017

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A top Emirati security official says the Qatar diplomatic crisis can end if Doha gives up hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first time someone from the four Arab nations boycotting the country directly linked the tournament to resolving the months-long dispute.

While Dubai security Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan is often outspoken on Twitter, his tweet on Sunday night on the crisis comes as those opposing Qatar increasingly target the upcoming soccer competition in their criticism.

Qatari officials did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

However, the 2022 tournament’s head in Qatar told The Associated Press on Friday the boycott poses “no risk” to the competition being held.

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The Khalifa International Stadium, the first completed 2022 FIFA World Cup venue. Picture: Neville Hopwood/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all cut diplomatic ties and began a boycott of Qatar on June 5 , in part over allegations that Doha supports extremists and has overly warm ties to Iran.

Qatar has long denied funding extremists and restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran that makes its citizens incredibly wealthy.

On Sunday night, Khalfan targeted the FIFA tournament in his tweets.

“If the World Cup goes out of Qatar, the crisis in Qatar will end because the crisis was made to break it,” he wrote.

He added: “The cost to return is more than what the al-Hamdeen have planned for,” likely referring to Qatar’s former ruling emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and former Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani. Some believe both still wield influence within Qatar’s current government now ruled by the former emir’s son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Khalfan, who previously has written controversy-catching tweets about Israel and President Donald Trump, later wrote that Qatar “is no longer our concern,” suggesting media in the boycotting countries dial back their coverage of the dispute.

As the crisis has dragged on despite mediation by Kuwait, the United States and European nations, Qatar’s opponents have begun targeting its hosting of the FIFA cup. They’ve pointed to allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar’s winning bid, as well as the conditions that laborers working in Qatar face in building infrastructure for the games.

While FIFA ethics investigators found that the Qataris used a full range of lavishly funded state and sports agencies to win the 2010 vote to host the tournament, authorities concluded there was no “evidence of any improper activity by the bid team.”

When Qatar’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia was closed and sea traffic cut off by the boycott, World Cup organizers were forced to instigate a “Plan B,” including bringing in supplies from Turkey.

Hassan al-Thawadi, Qatar World Cup supreme committee secretary-general, told the AP on Friday that the project remained on time despite that.

“There might have been some minimal increase in terms of establishing alternative supply chains but these have been absorbed very, very quickly and been normalized as these supply chains have been put in place,” he said.


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US military halts exercises over Qatar crisis

October 6, 2017

By Jon Gambrill

The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. military has halted some exercises with its Gulf Arab allies over the ongoing diplomatic crisis targeting Qatar, trying to use its influence to end the months-long dispute, authorities told The Associated Press on Friday.

While offering few details, the acknowledgement by the U.S. military’s Central Command shows the concern it has over the conflict gripping the Gulf, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and crucial bases for its campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, as well as the war in Afghanistan.

The Qatar crisis began June 5, when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched an economic boycott while closing off the energy-rich nation’s land border and its air and sea routes. The quartet of Arab nations pointed to Qatar’s alleged support of extremists and overly warm ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran that makes its citizens have the highest per-capita income in the world.

Initially, U.S. military officials said the boycott and dispute had no impact on their operations. Qatar is home to the massive al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of Central Command which oversees the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign of the Islamic State group and manages a direct line to Russia to manage Syria’s crowded skies.

But as the dispute went on, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis traveled to Doha to offer his support. The Trump administration also agreed to an in-the-works sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar for $12 billion.

Responding to queries from the AP, Air Force Col. John Thomas, a Central Command spokesman, acknowledged it would be cutting back on the exercises.

“We are opting out of some military exercises out of respect for the concept of inclusiveness and shared regional interests,” Thomas said in a statement. “We will continue to encourage all partners to work together toward the sort of common solutions that enable security and stability in the region.”

Officials in Qatar did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the boycotting nations have not acknowledged the disruption in military exercises with the U.S.

The Qatar diplomatic crisis has torn apart the typically clubby Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional Arab bloc created in part as a counterbalance to Iran. The U.S. military holds exercises in part to build the confidence of local forces, many of which use American-made equipment.

Among the exercises likely to be affected is Eagle Resolve, an annual exercise held since 1999 that has GCC countries send forces alongside Americans to simulate working as a multinational force in battle. This year’s Eagle Resolve exercise, held in Kuwait in March, involved 1,000 U.S. troops.

U.S. and Gulf allies have regularly held joint, smaller-scale exercises in the region.


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Iran’s Javad Zarif and Sheikh Tamim hold talks in Doha

October 4, 2017

Al Jazeera

Foreign minister’s visit comes after restoration of full diplomatic ties with Qatar and against backdrop of GCC crisis.

The visit is Zarif’s first to Doha since Saudi bloc imposed a land, air and sea blockade [Reuters]

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani for talks on relations and strengthening “cooperation” between the two countries after almost four months of a blockade against Qatar.

The visit is Zarif’s first to Doha since four Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on 5 June and imposed a land, air and sea blockade.

“During the meeting, they reviewed relations of cooperation between the two countries in various fields as well as exchanged views on the current situation in the region,” a statement from Qatar News Agency said, referring to Tuesday’s talks.

Zarif’s trip comes after Qatar restored full diplomatic relations with Iran in August.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf rift – The Iran factor

In January 2016, Qatar had pulled its ambassador from Tehran over attacks on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic mission there, after the kingdom executed a Shia religious scholar.

Iranian state media published images of Zarif at the Doha meeting and quoted him as saying: “None of the regional crises have a military solution.”

All sides should “give priority to regional initiations for restoring collective stability and security”.

Zarif on Monday met Omani officials, including Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled Oman since 1970 and has served as an interlocutor between the West and Iran.

Kuwait has tried unsuccessfully to mediate the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis, as has the US, which has a major military base in Qatar.

On June 22, the Saudi bloc issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions.

The quartet accuses Qatar of supporting “extremism” and fostering ties with Iran. Qatar has rejected the allegations as well as the demands, and the quartet now consider the list “null and void”.

Survey on Iran

Against this backdrop, a new academic survey published this week suggests that the average citizens in the Arab members of the GCC do not see Iran as an existential threat in the same way some of their leaders do.

Face-to-face surveys of over 4,000 GCC citizens conducted in recent months found that with the exception of Bahrain, the spread of violent organisations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group represented their biggest worry, said Justin Gengler, a senior researcher at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute at Qatar University.

READ MORE: Qatar-GCC crisis: All the latest updates

Gengler said the survey, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund before the Gulf crisis began and conducted along with researchers from the University of Michigan, was conducted in every GCC country except the UAE.

Gengler first published his results on Monday in the prestigious Foreign Affairsmagazine. The margin of error was below four percent among the surveys in each country.

Asked about the results, Gengler told the Associated Press news agency, Iran offered a convenient foe for Arab Gulf states struggling with internal problems and low global oil prices.

Political differences

Leaders in the Arab Gulf countries, those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE especially, view Iran with suspicion after its recent advances on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.

They also worry about Iran’s nuclear programme and the 2015 deal that Iran struck with world powers over it.

Late last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said the quartet’s blockade was pushing Qatar into closer economic ties with Iran despite political differences.

“They said Qatar was now closer to Iran. By their measures they are pushing Qatar to Iran,” he said in comments in Paris.

“Is that their objective, to push one country, a GCC member state towards Iran? This is not a wise objective.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Defiant Qatar emir meets Iran’s Zarif

October 3, 2017


© AFP/File | Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (seen here) and Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif met at a time of heightened Gulf tensions, with Qatari officials warning the ongoing Arab blockade would only drive Doha towards regional powerhouse Iran

DOHA (AFP) – Iran’s foreign minister held talks with the emir of Qatar Tuesday aimed at strengthening “co-operation,” nearly four months into a Saudi-led blockade against the Gulf emirate.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif met at a time of heightened Gulf tensions, with Qatari officials warning the ongoing Arab blockade would only drive Doha towards regional powerhouse Iran.

Qatar’s state news agency said the pair discussed the impasse in the region, which has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha over its ties with Iran and accusations that it supports extremists.

“During the meeting, they reviewed relations of cooperation between the two countries in various fields as well as exchanged views on the current situation in the region,” read the statement from Qatar News Agency.

Tuesday’s visit was notable as it was Zarif’s first since Qatar’s political isolation began on June 5. The Iranian foreign minister on Monday visited Oman — which has remained neutral on the Gulf crisis — meeting with Sultan Qaboos in Muscat.

Qatar’s relationship with Shiite-dominated Iran, seen as the major rival to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, is one of the major factors underpinning the crisis between Qatar and its former allies.

Last week, Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani warned that the political and economic boycott imposed on Qatar was pushing Doha closer to Tehran.

“They accuse Qatar of being close to Iran but with their measure… they push Qatar towards Iran. They are giving Qatar like a gift to Iran,” Sheikh Mohammed said in a speech in Paris.

Doha in January 2016 had pulled its ambassador from Tehran in solidarity with Saudi Arabia over attacks on its diplomatic mission there — attacks spurred by Riyadh’s decision to execute a prominent Shiite cleric in the kingdom.

But in August, Qatar announced it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran by returning its ambassador.

Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest natural gas field —  which Doha calls the North Field and Iran South Pars — and which has been responsible for the emirate’s dramatic transformation over the past 20 years.


Palestinian Authority Prime Minister In Gaza To Take Administrative Control

October 2, 2017

Palestinians celebrate the arrival of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his go

Palestinians celebrate the arrival of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his government to take control of Gaza from the Islamist Hamas group. (photo credit:SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)

.JERUSALEM – The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority prime minister crossed into the Gaza Strip on Monday in a major move towards reconciliation between Hamas and the mainstream Fatah party, a decade after the Islamist group seized the territory in a civil war.

Hamas announced last week that it was handing over administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a unity government headed by Rami al-Hamdallah, but the movement’s armed wing remains the dominant power in the enclave of two million people.

Hamas’s reversal was the most significant step towards elusive Palestinian unity since the government was formed in 2014. It failed to function in Gaza because of disputes between Hamas and Fatah over its responsibilities.

Analysts said narrowing internal divisions could help Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas counter Israel’s argument that it has no negotiating partner for peace.

A Hamas police honour guard and hundreds of Palestinians, many of them waving Palestinian flags, welcomed Hamdallah outside the Hamas-controlled checkpoint, down the road from Israel’s Erez border crossing through which the prime minister and his delegation passed.

“It is a day of Eid, a national holiday,” said Abdel-Majid Ali, 46. “We hope this time reconciliation is for real.” Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and the West, made its dramatic reversal towards unity last month, disbanding its Gaza shadow government, after Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic boycott on its main donor, Qatar, over alleged support of terrorism.