UAE steps up iso­la­tion of Qatar over ‘mil­i­tant fund­ing’

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

DUBAI/DOHA: The United Arab Emi­rates tight­ened the squeeze on fel­low Gulf state Qatar yes­ter­day, threat­en­ing any­one pub­lish­ing ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy to­wards it with up to 15 years in prison, and bar­ring en­try to Qataris.

UAE Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash also said there would be more curbs if nec­es­sary and said Qatar needed to make iron-clad com­mit­ments to change what crit­ics say is a pol­icy on fund­ing mil­i­tants.

Qatar ve­he­mently de­nies any such back­ing.

Ef­forts to defuse the re­gional cri­sis – trig­gered on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and oth­ers sev­ered diplo­matic ties with Qatar over al­leged sup­port for Is­lamist groups and Iran – showed no im­me­di­ate signs of suc­cess.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took sides in the rift on Tuesday, prais­ing the ac­tions against Qatar, but later spoke by phone with Saudi King Sal­man and stressed the need for Gulf unity.

His de­fence sec­re­tary, James Mat­tis, also spoke to his Qatari coun­ter­part to ex­press com­mit­ment to the Gulf re­gion’s se­cu­rity. Qatar hosts 8 000 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel at al Udeid, the largest US air base in the Mid­dle East and a launch­pad for US-led strikes on the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group.

Kuwait’s emir has also been seek­ing to me­di­ate, meet­ing Saudi’s king on Tuesday.

Qatar’s sud­den iso­la­tion has led to the coun­try hold­ing talks with Tur­key, Iran and oth­ers to se­cure food and wa­ter sup­plies, ac­cord­ing to a Qatari of­fi­cial.

UAE-based news­pa­per Gulf News and pan-Arab chan­nel Al-Ara­biya re­ported the crack­down on ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy with Qatar.

“Strict and firm ac­tion will be taken against any­one who shows sym­pa­thy or any form of bias to­wards Qatar, or against any­one who ob­jects to the po­si­tion of the United Arab Emi­rates, whether it be through the means of so­cial me­dia, or any type of writ­ten, vis­ual or ver­bal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ha­mad Saif al-Shamsi as say­ing.

On top of a pos­si­ble jail term, of­fend­ers could be hit with a fine of at least 500 000 dirhams (R1.7 mil­lion), the news­pa­per said, cit­ing a state­ment to Ara­bic-lan­guage me­dia.

Since the diplo­matic row erupted, slo­gans against and in sup­port of Qatar have dom­i­nated Twit­ter in Ara­bic, a plat­form used widely in the Arab world, par­tic­u­larly in Saudi Ara­bia.

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

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Pas­sen­gers at Ha­mad In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Doha yes­ter­day.

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