Qatar weans it­self off its Gulf depen­dence

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

QATAR is de­fi­antly weath­er­ing a boy­cott by four of its neigh­bours in a deep­en­ing cri­sis that has roiled the re­gion.

Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt sev­ered ties and im­posed an eco­nomic block­ade on Qatar in early June, ac­cus­ing it of back­ing ter­ror­ism. Qatar has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Two months into the iso­la­tion cam­paign, the en­ergy-rich Per­sian Gulf na­tion has used its bil­lions to strengthen its econ­omy and se­cu­rity. It has an­nounced re­forms and bol­stered ties with Turkey and Iran that could po­ten­tially re­shape the re­gion and its al­liances for years. The cri­sis is ac­ri­mo­niously play­ing out in diplo­matic venues.

“It’s now per­sonal, which in some ways makes it more dif­fi­cult to find a way for both sides to step down,” said Perry Cam­mack, a Mid­dle East an­a­lyst at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace.

The bloc, led by Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE, has long been at odds with Qatar over its ties to Iran and sup­port for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, a mod­er­ate Is­lamist group that gov­ern­ments of the bloc view as a threat to their rule. The coun­tries pulled out their am­bas­sadors, or­dered cit­i­zens to leave Qatar, closed their bor­ders, and shut air and sea routes to Qatari flights and ves­sels.

In June, the bloc made 13 de­mands of Qatar, in­clud­ing that it slash ties with Iran, sever links with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, ex­pel sev­eral Is­lamists and make repa­ra­tion pay­ments. The bloc has de­manded that Qatar close Al Jazeera, a Doha-funded me­dia net­work that has cov­ered the re­gion’s gov­ern­ments crit­i­cally.

Qatari of­fi­cials dis­missed the de­mands as “nei­ther ac­tion­able or rea­son­able”.

In­stead, Qatar has sought to di­ver­sify its econ­omy and wean it­self off its depen­dence on its Gulf neigh­bours for food and other sup­plies. Food from Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE that once filled su­per­mar­kets has been re­placed by prod­ucts from Turkey and Iran. One busi­ness­man has started im­port­ing 4 000 cows to pro­duce milk. The Wash­ing­ton Post

PIC­TURE: EPA

Turk­ish and Qatar sol­diers meet be­fore a mil­i­tary ex­er­cise in Qatar on Sun­day. In June, Turkey an­nounced the de­ploy­ment of hun­dreds of troops to a base near Doha.

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