Arab rift deepens woes for Gulf airlines

A Qatari diplomat told the Associated Press on Thursday that his country's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, would not travel overseas while the blockade remained in place.

On Wednesday, Turkey fast-tracked its plans to deploy extra troops to Qatar - reportedly to train regional security forces and conduct joint exercises - in a critical show of support for the small Gulf state as it faces isolation from its neighbors.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani spoke as would-be mediators ranging from US President Donald Trump to Kuwait's ruling emir struggled to ease a crisis that Qataris say has led to a blockade of their nation.

Trump's tweet appeared at odds with comments from USA officials who had said on Monday that the United States would quietly try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar because Qatar is too important to US military and diplomatic interests to be isolated.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran, opening the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.

Despite the seeming fallout from President Donald Trump's tweets suggesting that Qatar, a Middle East ally that hosts 10,000 USA troops, was justifiably isolated by its Gulf neighbors, the Pentagon has yet to see any changes in its relations with the Gulf state, two U.S. officials told BuzzFeed News.

Qatar has steadfastly denied the allegations and has largely blamed a hack of its state news organization for the crisis.

Because of such worries, the Qatari riyal fell in the spot market on Tuesday to 3.6470 against the US dollar, its lowest level since June 2016, although it later rebounded to 3.6405, nearly equal to its official peg of 3.64.

The Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, told the broadcaster that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had confirmed the hack and the planting of fake news.

Trump said Arab leaders he met with in Saudi Arabia last month had urged him to confront Qatar over its behavior.

They have ordered Qatari citizens and diplomats out of their countries, cut all flights to Qatar and are looking for ways to bar global airlines from flying through their airspace to get to Qatar, which is slated to host to 2022 World Cup. They have imposed what Qatar says is a blockade of shipping and air traffic and closed Qatar's only land border, causing panic buying at supermarkets and provoking confusion and anxiety across the population.

The push back came from fellow Arab states: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. "We need the world to condemn the aggressors". And to Qatar's critics, the hostage deal was further evidence of its role in sponsoring extremists.

The governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have responded in kind.

The rift has provoked confusion and anxiety in Qatar, an energy, banking and construction hub, which is home to 2.7 million people - a lot of them foreigners.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have both criticized each other for supporting Islamist groups fighting in Syria.

Qatar has dismissed the terrorism charge and welcomed a Kuwaiti mediation effort.

Etihad and Emirates airlines said expatriates residing in Qatar and in possession of Qatari residency will not be eligible for an Emirati visa on arrival.

  • Leroy Wright