Browsing 'Gulf dispute' News

Saudi Press Agency

Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Morocco

Two members of Qatar’s ruling family are urging their countrymen to meet with them to discuss an end to the Gulf dispute.

The idea was first proposed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani this week in a tweet.

He said: “To my family, the children, the businessmen, and all the people of Qatar: I invite you to meet to be messengers of wisdom and peace, and advocates for the uniting of the hearts.”

Sheikh Abdullah has kept a low profile for decades. He lives and owns property in Saudi Arabia, and is married to a Saudi woman.

But he has become a more prominent figure since the boycott began.

Since then, he has met with Saudi Arabia’s king on multiple occasions and some Saudis have even suggested he replace Sheikh Tamim as Emir.

Peter Draper / Instagram

The Emir’s image decorating a cup of coffee

Qataris appear to overwhelmingly support their nation’s current leadership.

Many have expressed their solidarity with Sheikh Tamim by displaying his likeness in car windows, in murals and through social media.

Second voice

But the Gulf crisis has also empowered some dissenters to speak up.

Yesterday, another member of the ruling family threw his support behind the idea of a national meeting.

According to Arab News, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al Thani made a televised statement urging Qataris to unite against terrorist groups.

The son of a former Qatari foreign minister said he is now living in Paris because he “could no longer tolerate seeing strangers roaming our country and interfering in our affairs under the pretext of protecting us from our brothers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.”

The newspaper quoted Sheikh Sultan as adding, “It is our national duty now to unite and stand together to purge the country of them.”

Qatar’s government has not yet officially commented on the call to action.

The country’s Emir is in New York today to speak at the UN General Assembly.

Sheikh Tamim will also meet with US President Donald Trump to discuss the Gulf dispute.

Thoughts?

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar has made it easier for more people to secure visit visas to the country through a new Electronic Travel Authorization system.

Starting Sept. 27, visitors of any nationality who hold valid residence permits or visas from the UK, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Schengen or GCC countries can secure 30-day visit visas to Qatar.

The visas can be applied for online here, and extended for a second month through the same website.

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) announced the plan while opening a new office in China this week.

The move comes as the nation struggles to woo more tourists amid a months-long blockade by its neighbors that has hit the hospitality industry.

It also follows Qatar’s recent decision to allow visa-free travel for some 80 nationalities.

In a statement, chief tourism development officer Hassan al-Ibrahim said:

“This additional enhancement to our visa policy is a testament to my country’s commitment to openness, and to championing the right to tourism for all people…

“Adopting this kind of openness and freedom of movement is surely the best way to enhance acceptance and openness between cultures.”

Terms and conditions

To visit Qatar under the new system, applicants will need to present:

  • Itinerary (ie in the form of round-trip plane tickets);
  • Proof of accommodation (such as hotel bookings);
  • Passport copy (with a minimum validity of six months); and
  • A copy of their residence permit or visa (with a minimum validity of 30 days) to the previously mentioned countries.

There is no charge for the ETA, but there is a US$14 service fee to apply for one.

Jiseon Shin/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

If a visitor leaves the country and wishes to return, he or should would need to apply for a new ETA before traveling back to Qatar.

Visitors can apply for the ETA and find more information about it here.

Tourism woes

The new visa policies should help boost Qatar’s tourism numbers, which have taken a hit since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt began their boycott in June.

This is problematic because tourism is a key part of Qatar’s economic diversification plan, as it tries to move away from oil and gas.

claireschmidtmeyer/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to government figures, the number of visitors from the GCC fell 18 percent in July.

On a positive note, however, they also showed an increase of visitors from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Meanwhile, passenger traffic at Hamad International Airport dipped sharply in June, the latest figures available.

Thoughts?

Alexis Methenitis/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s government has spent some $38.5 billion (equivalent to 23 percent of its GDP) to support the economy in just the first two months of the Gulf crisis, a new report has found.

According to ratings agency Moody’s, some $30 billion has also left Qatar’s banks during the same time period, “with further declines expected as GCC banks opt not to roll over their deposits.”

In a report released this week, the agency said that the dispute is increasing uncertainty in the region and could spur negative credit outlooks for all GCC nations.

Arshad Inamdar/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Moody’s added that amid the “unprecedented” dispute, Qatar and Bahrain face the biggest financial risks.

The blockade of Qatar has particularly hurt its trade, tourism and banking sectors, the report said.

“Qatar’s future credit trajectory will depend heavily on the evolution of the dispute,” it added.

Bahrain ‘exposed’

Qatar isn’t the only country reeling from the Gulf dispute.

Bahrain, which has been weakened by civil unrest since 2011, has seen climbing debt put pressure on its financing costs.

“The broad-based deterioration of Bahrain’s credit profile and its diminished shock absorption capacity makes it susceptible to any reassessment of risk by foreign investors,” Moody’s said.

Because the country is currently aligned with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it may have some support to mitigate its risk. But details about how remain unclear, the report said.

‘Impaired functioning’

It’s been more than 100 days since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar.

Hopes were briefly raised about the Emir and Saudi’s Crown Prince spoke on the phone last week for the first time about the crisis.

WAM

Flags of the boycotting nations (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt).

But Saudi Arabia broke off communications shortly after that for a protocol dispute.

Authorities from all countries have previously said the dispute could go on for months or even years.

But such a case would be bad news for the region’s finances, Moody’s said.

“The tensions highlight intra-GCC divisions, and although Moody’s believes that a realignment within the GCC is unlikely, the diplomatic rift will inevitably impair the functioning of the grouping, the more so the longer it persists,” the report concluded.

Thoughts?