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Qatar’s decision to offer Kuwait the Gulf Cup hosting rights is a goodwill gesture. It’s also an execution of sports diplomacy. While Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have been unbending in their resolve to isolate Qatar, Kuwait has steadfastly stood by the tiny, yet defiant Gulf State.
Had the prestigious tournament taken place in Qatar, where it was originally scheduled, nothing would have changed in terms of world opinion. Rather, Qatar would have received positive reception for maintaining its standards when it came to hosting international tournaments. And on the other spectrum, the standoff would have remained and Kuwait would have continued in its quest to find peace in a tinderbox that the region has turned into.

Sports diplomacy has the power to transcend political differences and bring people together, even at the Government level. It can revive hope where there was previously only despair. Qatar, by handing over the 23rd edition of the Gulf Cup to Kuwait, has shown that it is willing to share. Qatar has had the privilege to host multiple global sports events, but it also wants others in the neighbourhood to have equal recognition as sports hub.

Kuwait especially needed this tournament. The Kuwaitis have for long been deprived of opportunities to enjoy watching international football in the country. It has thrice been suspended by FIFA for political interference since 2007. Now, with the tournament set to kick-off on December 22 in the country, there is great anticipation and excitement. There is history attached to it. The first Gulf Cup tournament took place in 1970, and was won by the Kuwaiti team.

Qatar’s decision to forgo the tournament is aimed at leaving an impression on the Arab bloc, but they are likely to remain sceptical, which would be on expected lines. The blockading nations wouldn’t have joined in the tournament had it taken place in Qatar. So all’s well that ends well. The tournament will now see all the participating nations – Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen – come out in full strength and fight for the trophy. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has expressed gratitude, thanking Qatar for its laudable step and declaring it as a win for football lovers.

With the Gulf crisis as the backdrop, the tournament will be quite fiery, especially when the Saudis and the Emiratis lock horns with Qatar. Although the athletes don’t, and shouldn’t, really care about the political conflict that their respective countries are embroiled in, the Gulf Cup could see tempers flying. Good sense must prevail.

Sohar Port

Sohar Port in Oman

Qatar-based shipping and logistic company Milaha Maritime is relocating its regional trans-shipment hub from Dubai to Oman’s Sohar port.

The firm announced the move as the Gulf dispute enters its third month, signaling that it does not expect things to be resolved any time soon.

Since the blockade began in June, Qatar has been unable to move goods via the UAE. This in part caused imparts to drop dramatically in June.

Milaha

Milaha operations

However, more companies have now turned to Oman, which has remained neutral in the dispute, as a new shipping link.

Growth elsewhere

In addition to Oman, Milaha added in a statement that three Indian ports can now also be used to trade with Qatar.

And Qatar’s transport ministry said three new direct shipping lines are being opened with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan, Al Jazeera reported yesterday.

These countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, are expected to benefit financially from doing trade with the countries affected by the boycott.

But how the blockade has affected the UAE’s massive Jebel Ali port remains unclear.

Financial status challenged

Separately, analysts have warned that an economic embargo on Qatar could hurt Dubai’s status as a financial hub for the region.

According to Reuters, lender Standard Chartered said the boycott puts global banks in a difficult position.

George Shahda/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“There is a lot of benefit we get from having a Dubai hub, we are looking to see what the effect of this will be,” the group’s CEO Bill Winters said.

“There is a risk of turning away from the UAE,” he added.

Thoughts?

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Retired racing camels may be aiding in the spread of a newly discovered coronavirus that has killed 46 people, mostly in Saudi Arabia, a new study shows.

The findings, which were just published in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, confirm the long-held belief that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) comes from animals, but discounts the previous theory that bats were somehow infecting humans.

After testing the blood of livestock in various countries, researchers found high levels of MERS antibodies in all 50 dromedary (Arabian) camels tested in Oman, indicating that the animals had been exposed to the virus.

So far, people who have died of MERS-related complications hailed from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and several European countries after having visited the Middle East.

But there are no reported cases of MERS infection among humans in Oman, and researchers said more testing needs to be done.

No sharing

One obstacle to learning more has been getting livestock samples from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which is where the virus was first discovered last fall, said the study’s senior author, Prof. Marion Koopmans of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and Erasmus University in The Netherlands.

Science magazine reports: 

That hypothesis needs to be followed up by investigating importation routes, Koopman says. One possibility would be to study blood samples of imported camels that are taken in some Middle Eastern countries. 

“Qatar has that kind of collection, I’m told,” Koopman says. Such samples would be ideal material to find out whether the animals come to the Middle East already infected or only come into contact with the virus once there.

The exact cause of MERS, which causes fever, cough and breathing difficulties, is still undetermined. Though it did not originally appear to spread through human to human contact, WHO later said that transmission between those in close contact with infected people was possible. 

With this in mind, Saudi Arabia has restricted the number of people who can perform Hajj this year in a bid to keep MERS from spreading. Still, given that more than a million people are expected to flock to the country this October, researchers hope to have more answers about the virus before then.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Abdullah Almaosharji