QATAR AIRLINES SUSPENDS FLIGHTS TO GULF REGION Kuwait tries to mediate crisis

Posted on 06/07/2017 | About Al `Asimah, Kuwait

Kuwait tried to mediate a resumption of diplomatic and commercial ties between Qatar and several of its Arab neighbours Tuesday, while Donald Trump’s twets appeared to back those isolating the energy-rich nation over allegations it supports terror groups and Iran – while taking credit for pointing it out to them. Qatar is home to some 10,000 American troops and is a major US military base.

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Qatar long has denied funding extremists, and its foreign minister struck a defiant tone in interviews, even after worried residents emptied grocery stores in its capital, Doha.

Qatar relies heavily on food imports, especially those coming over its only land border with Saudi Arabia, which joined with other key Arab powers Monday in cutting off land, sea and air routes into the country.

The moving finger…

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While the US military has said it wouldn't change its posture at Qatar's Al-Udeid Air Base, Trump made a series of tweets calling into question his commitment to the peninsular nation.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” he tweeted. “Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!”

He later tweeted, “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

Trump, who travelled to Saudi Arabia last month for a conference of Arab nations, had told Qatar's ruler at the time that “we've been friends now for a long time.” Qatari officials declined to comment.

Other countries weigh in

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Qatar's Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, and reaffirmed Moscow's position “in favour of settling crisis situations by political and diplomatic means, through dialogue,” the Kremlin said.

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Meanwhile, the Philippines said it will temporarily suspend the deployment of Filipino workers to Qatar. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the ban took effect Tuesday, but there is no plan yet to repatriate the more than 200,000 Filipino workers in Qatar. More than 1 million Filipinos live and work in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.

Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were among those who joined Saudi Arabia on Monday in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. Yemen's internationally backed government, which has lost the capital and large portions of the war-torn country, also cut relations with Qatar, as did the Maldives and one of conflict-ridden Libya's competing governments.

FIFA in contact

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Soccer's world governing body FIFA has said it remains in regular contact with Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar just finished one of the stadiums for the tournament, though others have yet to be built.

Saudi Arabia cuts ties

Saudi Arabia, the powerhouse among those cutting ties to Qatar, said it did so due to the country's “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and militants supported by Iran in the kingdom's restive Eastern Province.

The Gulf countries ordered their citizens out of Qatar and gave Qataris abroad 14 days to return home. The countries also said they would eject Qatar's diplomats.

Flights suspended

The nations also cut air and sea traffic with Qatar.

Qatar Airways, one of the region's major long-haul carriers, has suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain until further notice. On its website, the carrier said the suspension of its flights took effect Tuesday and customers are being offered a refund.

Saudi Arabia said it revoked Qatar Airways' operating licenses and closed the airline's offices in the kingdom. The Saudi ports authority said Qatari-flagged shipping vessels are barred from docking. It said it ordered shipping agents not to receive any vessels owned by Qatari companies or Qatari nationals and not to unload any goods from Qatar.

The air route between Doha and Dubai is popular among business travellers, and both are major transit hubs for travellers between Asia and Europe. FlightRadar24, a popular airplane tracking website, said Qatar Airways flights already had started to be affected, with flights to Europe being rerouted through Iran and Turkey.

The number of flights in Iran's airspace has jumped from 950 a day to 1,100, Iran airports company head Rahmatollah Mahabadi told the state-run IRNA news agency. He said it was a direct result of Qatar Airways flights.