International News

UAE Minster Says Qatar Blockade ‘Could Last for Years’

Constance Renton

Rabat - Citing Qatar’s “state of denial,” the United Arab Emirates state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, speculated Monday that the blockade against Qatar, now in it’s third week, “could last for years.”

In Brussels on Tuesday, Gargash addressed the logistics of formulating a deal to end the crisis, saying that the UAE would want to see both US and European monitors from countries such as France, Britain and Germany involved in the process. "We do need to create some sort of monitoring system of Qatar's obligations," he said.

From the moment that Saudi Arabia and the other five Gulf states announced they were severing ties on June 4, Qatar has steadfastly denied the allegations that it has been financially supporting terrorist groups.

One Man’s Denial is Another Man’s Defiance

He added that the UAE fully expects the blockade could continue because "the Qataris are still in a state of denial."

What the UAE calls denial, Qatar would view as righteous defiance. Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is insisting that customers have begun returning to the airline following an initial downturn immediately following the blockade’s announcement.

Still, Al Baker did speak of his hope that US President Donald Trump will intervene to bring the blockade and Qatar’s imposed isolation to an end sooner than later. Voicing his disappointment in what he views as a lack of US leadership in the crisis, Al Baker said that he hopes the US President will take more of a frontline position "to make sure that this blockade is lifted soonest...especially since he knows that we are part of his alliance against terrorism."

Asked about what effect the blockade has had on Qatar Airways, Al Baker said, "We have had a lot of cancellations, especially to the four countries that did this illegal blockade, but we have found new markets and this is our growth strategy."

Recently, the airline launched a new marketing campaign designed to counter the divisive effects of the blockade, which has separated families in the Gulf countries. Titled "No Borders, Only Horizons," the campaign address what Al Baker calls an ill-advised blockade strategy. "All these countries have families on either side of the borders, they have relatives, children, investments. Eventually, people will realise that the move they have done against my country was ill-thought out and ill-advised and that life has to come back to normal," he said.

US Now Expressing Doubt Over Saudi Claims

As if in agreement with the airline executive, the US State Department expressed doubt on Tuesday that the blockade imposed on Qatar by a select group of Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, was actually about terrorism at all. Questions are now being raised about the primary motive possibly being long-standing disagreements between Gulf countries.

At the centre of their doubt is the fact that the blockade countries have yet to publicize either proof of their allegations that Qatar has rendered financial support to terrorist groups or their list of demands to end the crisis.

State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, voiced the Trump administration’s increasing frustration with Riyadh saying, "The more the time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar's alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries."

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