Written by Keshala Dias
07 Jun, 2017 | 8:17 pm
The United Arab Emirates tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar today, threatening that anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards it with up to 15 years in prison, and barring Qatari passport or resident visa holders entry.
A local newspaper reported that on top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 UAE dirhams.
Efforts to defuse the regional crisis showed no immediate signs of success.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash threatened more curbs if necessary and said Qatar needed to make “iron-clad” commitments to change policies on funding militants. Qatar vehemently denies giving such support.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris that Qatar must end its support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood before ties with other Arab Gulf states could be restored.
Jubeir declined to say exactly what he wanted Qatar to do immediately, but said the measures taken by Arab states, including a sea, land and air blockade would have a considerable cost on the country.
Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, visited Saudi Arabia yesterday, to hold talks with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on ways of defusing the escalating crisis.
No details were given on the talks.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said isolating Qatar, including the use of sanctions, would not resolve any problems, adding that Ankara would continue to do everything in its power to help end the crisis.
“I hope that all sanctions against Qatar will be lifted as soon as possible because I believe that classifying Qatar as a terror suspect is a severe accusation” said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Meantime, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad that Iraq is not taking sides in the dispute that pits Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries against Qatar.
The dispute between Qatar and the Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency.
And in a bizarre turn of events, US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to the crisis.
Qatari and US government officials say the FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident.
US officials say intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago.
Qatar Airways customers crowded outside the company’s office in central Riyadh, petitioning for refunds or to be re-booked on flights with other airlines, as the diplomatic spat grew between the country and several other Gulf states.
The UAE’s state-owned Etihad Airways, meanwhile, said all travelers holding Qatari passports were currently prohibited from traveling to or transiting through the Emirates on government instructions.
Foreigners residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari residence visa would also not be eligible for visa on arrival in the UAE, the Etihad Spokesman said in an email.
Now there are thousands of stranded Qataris all over the region. They cannot take any direct flights back home but have to go through a detour.
The Kuwait International Airport has become one of these main hubs for such detour, because Kuwait has not cut its ties with Qatar.
The Philippines has also temporarily banned its workers from travelling to Qatar after several Arab countries broke off diplomatic ties with the Gulf state.
Philippines Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said the ban would be in place until it completed an assessment of the situation.
The latest development comes a day after US President claimed credit for the pressure placed on Qatar, saying his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off”.
In a series of tweets yesterday morning, Trump accused Qatar of funding terrorism and cast an anti-Islamist speech he made in Saudi Arabia as the inspiration for a decision by Arab powers to sever ties with Qatar in protest at what they say is the Gulf nation’s support for terrorism.
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