Qatar Rail

Doha Metro rendering

The Doha Metro came one step closer to reality this week after Qatar Rail tested its first train.

In a video posted by the transport ministry, the train could be seen racing down a short length of track.

According to Japanese manufacturer Kinki Sharyo, the train had been designed with German company Tricon Design to reflect Qatar’s culture.

Qatar’s Emir “personally selected” the exterior design of the train, which used the Arabian horse as inspiration for the sleek, shaped front-end of the Metro vehicles, the company said.

Driverless trains

Qatar Rail took delivery of four of its 75 driverless trains last month.

At the time, the company said the trains would be transported from Hamad Port to its Al Wakrah depot, reassembled and then tested to ensure safety standards.

Qatar Rail, Twitter

First Doha Metro train arrives at Hamad Port in August 2017

Testing is supposed to take place at three trial stations on the Red Line by year-end.

When Phase 1 of the Doha Metro launches to passengers in 2020, a total of 37 stations will operate across three lines – Red, Green and Gold.

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QNA

Sheikh Tamim meets US President Donald Trump

The Gulf crisis should be resolved “pretty quickly,” US President Donald Trump said following a meeting with Qatar’s Emir yesterday.

In a press briefing after their talk, Trump emphasized the two nations’ historically strong relationship.

Referring to the months-long dispute between Qatar and its neighbors, he added:

“We are right now in a situation where we’re trying to solve a problem in the Middle East. And I think we’ll get it solved, I have a very strong feeling that it will be solved pretty quickly.”

Shortly after the dispute erupted in June, Trump expressed support for isolating Qatar to fight terrorism.

However, cognizant of the fact that Qatar hosts the US’s largest air base in the region, the Pentagon urged a swift resolution to the Gulf dispute.

Trump now appears to agree with this notion.

UN General Assembly

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, where both delivered speeches.

During his address, the Emir said that his people felt betrayed by the hacking of QNA, as well as the ensuing blockade.

Video still

Sheikh Tamim at UN General Assembly

He strongly criticized his neighbors for their political actions, but also said Qatar is ready to talk about solving the crisis.

Sheikh Tamim reiterated this desire in the press briefing with Trump, saying:

“We have a problem with our neighbors and your interference will help a lot. And I’m sure that with your interference hopefully we can find a solution to this problem.”

“We will always be open to dialogue,” he added.

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Video still

Sheikh Tamim at UN General Assembly

The ongoing blockade against Qatar is “an assault against a sovereign state” and a form of terrorism, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said during his address to the United Nations General Assembly today.

His remarks come as Qatar faces a months-long blockade from its neighbors that has cost the government billions of dollars.

The Emir said the boycott of “neighboring countries” puts pressure on Qatar’s population “through foodstuffs, medicine and ripping of family relations.”

The Qatar Insider

For illustrative purposes only.

He added that the goal is “to force (people) to change their political affiliation and destabilize a sovereign country. Isn’t this one of the definitions of terrorism?”

At least twice during the speech, the Emir also called for a constructive dialogue between the Gulf countries and Iran to resolve the crisis.

The conditions he put forth included “the principle of good neighborliness, respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.”

Responding to neighbors’ allegations that Qatar harbors terrorists, Sheikh Tamim also reiterated the country’s desire to combat extremism, calling it the “highest priority.”

He added however that the international community must be “careful not to make the fight against terrorism an umbrella for reprisals or shelling of civilians.”

Safe haven

This is the Emir’s fourth address in front of the assembly.

His first was shortly after he became leader of Qatar at 33 years old in 2013. The speech included talk of the Arab Spring and Qatar’s role in it.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

February 2012 protest against Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.

At the time, Sheikh Tamim said the nation served as a “hub for dialogue and discussion for different parties and conflicts” during a transitional phase for the region.

The Emir reiterated that goal – which Qatar has been criticized for by its neighbors  – once again during today’s address. He said:

“Qatar will remain, as always, a safe haven for the oppressed, and will continue its mediation efforts to find just solutions in conflict zones. “

In addition to the Gulf crisis, the Emir mentioned the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

“Lately there is a growing sense that people under repression are facing their fate alone,” he said.

He also urged the international community to help struggling Palestinians, Yemenis and Syrians, as well as Iraqis and Libyans.

Here’s the full unofficial translation of the Emir’s remarks, as posted by the UN.

Thoughts?

A screenshot from the Lift the Blockade website

Qatar’s government has launched a new website called “Lift the Blockade” to counter “fake news” amid the ongoing Gulf crisis.

Illustrated with images of the country and its people – both expats and Qataris – the site lays out Qatar’s perspective on the dispute.

It also details the impact the blockade has had on citizens, and includes recent international news articles that show Qatar in a positive light.

claireschmidtmeyer/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a statement to Doha News, the Government Communications Office (GCO) explained that the purpose of the site is education.

“We thought it was important that all stakeholders knew the facts about our efforts to defeat terrorism, the origin of the blockade, and the human impact of the blockade,” Media Attaché Jassim Al Thani said.

He added that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have “attacked Qatar in the news with lies.”

An ‘illegal blockade’

According to the website, the current dispute is not about terrorism financing, as the boycotting nations claim.

Rather, it is about “Qatar’s foreign policy, our sovereignty, and our independence,” the site said.

Lift the Blockade

Timeline of dispute

“Qatar’s principles of openness and tolerance have put our policies and positions in conflict with those of our neighbors.”

The GCO also called for the blockade to end so that dialogue could take place.

Brave face

In addition to stating its position on the crisis, the website strives to paint Qatar in the best light possible.

To reflect its resilience during the dispute, it quotes the Emir as saying, “We are proud of our history, but what happened in June 2017 has strengthened us and pushed us to work more for the country.”

Osama Saeed/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In response to a demand from the boycotting nations for Qatar to shut Al Jazeera, the government also highlights its commitment to free speech.

“Qatar believes that independent journalism contributes to public awareness and increased citizen engagement.

Qatar further believes that independent journalism helps keep authorities accountable and promotes good governance. Our country is proud of the Al Jazeera network, and of Qatar’s role in pioneering independent journalism in the Middle East.”

However, the site does not mention Qatar’s low international press freedom rankings, which are in large part due to its censorship of sensitive issues in domestic media.

Qatar Insider

Lift the Blockade was created a few months after the launch of The Qatar Insider, a website funded by the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), a Saudi lobby group.

SAPRAC

A screenshot from The Qatar Insider website

The site and its linked social media pages list damning but mostly unsubstantiated claims about Qatar.

These include allegations that the nation supported eight terrorist groups in Syria, has fomented unrest in Libya and Egypt and lied about being hacked in May.

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