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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, October 21, 2018


Trump congratulates himself as Arab countries turn on each other and Qatar row escalates

A day later

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DOHA, QATAR - Lauding his own efforts, U.S. President Donald Trump pat himself on the back after Arab countries turned on each other on Monday, days after Trump concluded his trip to the region.> BNN
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives said they are indefinitely severing ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism in the region.
Libya, that has no diplomatic representation in Doha, also cut ties with Qatar.
A day later, Trump said his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was "already paying off" adding the development might mark the "beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that the country is open to mediation to resolve the crisis.
Al-Thani said, "We are willing to sit and talk.”
He said the "progressive and modern" country believes in diplomacy and promoting peace in the Middle East.
Adding, “We are not a superpower here, we are not believing in solving things with confrontation.”
The minister further insisted that his country was combating terror financing and "protecting the world from potential terrorists."
The Persian Gulf country of 2.4 million people, mostly foreign workers was gripped with chaos after its neighbors announced their decision of ending ties, even as Qatar strongly denied the allegations.
Gulf allies have also particularly citied Qatar’s alleged support of the Muslim Brotherhood, a nearly 100-year-old Islamist group, which is considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.
Further, analysts believe the rift is also driven by the belief that Qatar is too closely aligned with Iran.
In his speech in the capital Riyadh, Trump had blamed Iran for instability in the Middle East.
He urged Muslim countries to take the lead in combating radicalisation.
The statement by Trump is seen as likely to have emboldened Gulf allies to act against Qatar.
On Tuesday, the President tweeted, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!" 
He later tweeted, "So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding... extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"
Al-Thani meanwhile, is said to have disputed a Saudi statement accusing Qatar of "embracing terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at de-stabilizing the region,” in an interview with CNN.
He said, “With all due respect, this statement is full of contradictions because it is saying that we are supporting Iran and on the other hand supporting the extremist groups in Syria, and (that) we are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi or in Yemen and we are supporting the [Iranian-backed] Houthis from the other side. In all battlefields, there are adversaries.”
He added, “About our support to the Saudi opposition or the sectarian [movements] in al-Qatif, this is totally false information. Actually the cooperation between our security and intelligence agencies between Qatar and Saudi has been serving the purpose of the national security of Saudi."
Further, referring to Trump’s tweets on the diplomatic crisis, Al-Thani said that during Trump's recent visit to the region, he and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim discussed the issue "that the funding of terrorism needs to be stopped by various countries."
He said that there have been multiple reports issued by official agencies in the U.S. "commending our role in combating terror financing."
The foreign minister claimed the accusations were based on "fabricated evidence and lies" and said his government told President Trump that there was no evidence that Qatar was supporting radical Islamists.
Meanwhile, Kuwait's Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al-Sabah reportedly urged Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to calm tensions with allies and refrain from escalating the diplomatic rift among Gulf Arab states.
Al-Sabah headed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, for a "fraternal visit" to mediate in the crisis.
Al-Thani said that his country would not retaliate but was unhappy with regional rivals "trying to impose their will on Qatar or intervene in its internal affairs.”
He added that Qatar was well prepared to withstand a "blockade,” but also complained that the people of Qatar were the victims of "collective punishment" by other countries.
Effects of Arab world’s worst possible split
Qatar is home to almost two million foreign nationals, mainly hailing from India, Nepal and the Philippines.
After announcing their decision, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. gave Qatari nationals two weeks to leave and even banned their own citizens from travelling to Qatar.
All transport links were cut and the last flights operated by Emirates and other major regional airlines left the capital, Doha, early Tuesday.
Chaos reigned at the Doha airport as several people scrambled to catch the last flights back home. 
With several Philippine nationals stuck in the country, a Filipino senator urged Qatari government to make plans to evacuate its citizens if the standoff worsens. 
The Philippines also announced that it was banning its citizens from travelling to Qatar for work while it assesses the situation.
Pakistan too organised special flights to bring back 550 pilgrims stranded in Qatar on their way home from Mecca.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials earlier stated that they would quietly try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, arguing that the small Gulf state was too important to U.S. military and diplomatic interests to be isolated.
Currently, Qatar hosts 8,000 U.S. military personnel at al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East.
It is also a staging ground for U.S.-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq.
On the other hand, analysts were predicting potential consequences for the Qatari economy after several banks in the region began stepping back from business dealings with Qatar.
Sources stated that Saudi Arabia's central bank advised banks in the kingdom not to trade with Qatari banks in Qatari riyals.
Saudi Arabia's aviation authority reportedly revoked the license of Qatar Airways and ordered its offices to be closed within 48 hours.
The U.A.E. and Bahrain too closed their airspace to Qatari commercial flights.
Oil prices also fell on concern that the rift would undermine efforts by OPEC to tighten production.
Meanwhile, Qatar's stock market rebounded in early trade on Tuesday after plunging the previous day.
The Qatari Riyal however, fell against the U.S. dollar.


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