Following the Qatari government’s rejection of the list of demands submitted to them on June 23, the Saudi-led bloc - which includes Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - issued a press release on Thursday, July 6, stressing that those demands were now “null and void” and emphasized that all “political, economic, and legal measures and procedures” would be taken to protect themselves against “hostile Qatari government policy.” The measures were not specified in the release, although some media sources have indicated that further financial and business restrictions on Qatar could be implemented.
For its part, Qatari officials have stated that the country is prepared to pay increased prices to import basic goods from Iran and Turkey “indefinitely,” suggesting a protracted dispute is likely. United States officials have subsequently expressed concerns that the dispute could intensify and drag on for weeks or months. To this point, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to travel to Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator, on Monday, July 10, in hopes of facilitating a resolution.
The Saudi-led bloc of Arab states accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism and has been blocking the movement of goods and people into the country since June 28. A 13-point list of demands announced on June 23 included closing the Al Jazeera media network, closing the Turkish military base in Qatar, curtailing ties with Iran, and severing all alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah. The Saudi-led bloc maintained that the demands were non-negotiable and threatened further economic sanctions, while Doha publicly characterized the demands as baseless.
As diplomatic tensions spiked, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt announced bans on all air, sea, and land travel to and from Qatar in a series of coordinated statements in early June. Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, and FlyDubai airlines all announced the indefinite suspension of flights to Qatar starting June 6. The three Gulf states and Egypt gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their territories. Several prominent Gulf and Egyptian businessmen have urged investors to withdraw from Qatar, and the price of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), of which Qatar is a major supplier, has fallen sharply. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Gulf Arab states, Egypt, and Jordan have long resented Qatar's alleged support for groups such as the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State (IS), among others. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused the country of broadcasting militant ideology, a reference to the Al Jazeera media outlet. Qatar allegedly used Al Jazeera to promote the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, a move that threatened many of the Gulf monarchies and fueled the overthrow of the then-Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.
Qatar has also been heavily criticized for forging a relationship with Iran, considered by many Arab countries as a dangerous enemy. Qatar also hosts the largest US Air Force base in the region.
Individuals in the region are advised to monitor the situation and contact their respective diplomatic missions for further information regarding security and transit to and from Qatar.
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