Support for Qatar Could Land You in Jail, UAE Warns Residents

Frederick Owens
June 8, 2017

A Qatari sports network has been blocked in the United Arab Emirates over a major diplomatic dispute.

In a potentially important move on Monday, the biggest oil producer in the world - fellow U.S. ally Saudi Arabia- and several other countries including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, while halting all transportation with the country.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, said the measures taken against the country were "surprising", according to the statement, which also cited the minister's interview with the BBC on Tuesday.

American officials had said Monday that the United States would try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

"We have moved from severing diplomatic relations to a comprehensive blockade of global conventions and human rights conventions, not only for Qataris but also for citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries", Marri told a press conference on Tuesday evening.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, spoke with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar about resolving the dispute.

The Cooperation Council for the Arab states of the Gulf was formed by Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The UAE announced Wednesday that "expressing sympathy, inclination or favoritism toward Qatar" is punishable by three to 15 years in prison, alongside a minimum fine of 500,000 dirhams, about $136,000.

Saudi Arabia accused its fellow GCC member of supporting a range of violent groups, from proxies of Shiite Muslim Iran to the Sunni militants of ISIS.

Newspapers and television channels in the region have also been engaged in a war of words over Qatar's role.

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Emirates and Etihad Airways have not responded to multiple requests for comment about whether Qataris would be allowed to board flights taking off from or landing in their respective hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

FBI agents are assisting Qatar in its investigation, said Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar's ambassador to the U.S.

"This ruling applies to all airlines flying into the UAE", the spokesman said in the statement.

Those breaking ties with Qatar are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the Maldives, Mauritania and Libya's eastern-based government. After "examining the cause" of the crisis, the Jordanian government also made a decision to revoke licenses for the Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Ordinary Qataris were loading up on supplies in supermarkets, fearing shortages.

Stock markets sold off globally on the news, while the main safe-haven assets like gold and the Japanese Yen jumped higher.

Qatar's stock index was roughly unchanged after plummeting 8.7 percent over the last two days.

"In this respect, we appreciate Qatar's constructive stance", he said.

Granted, a lot of the region at this time, including Qatar, was still under British protection and influence, much to the frustration of a swath of the country's residents, so, of course, not all was well in the region.

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