Qatar says Gulf citizens can stay despite crisis

By AFP

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Customers are seen shopping at the al-Meera market in the Qatari capital Doha, on June 10th. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain announced on June 5th they were cutting diplomatic ties and closing air, sea and land links with Qatar, but Iran said this week it had sent five planes carrying produce to the emirate. [AFP]

Qatar moved Sunday (June 11th) to avoid an escalation of its feud with Gulf neighbours by telling their citizens they are welcome to stay in the country, while boasting of "business as usual" for vital gas exports.

It also announced Monday it has launched direct shipping services to ports in Oman, as Iran sent tonnes of vegetables to the emirate which has seen food imports threatened after its neighbours cut air, sea and land links with the country.

Nearly a week after Saudi Arabia and several of its allies severed ties with Qatar in an unprecedented Gulf diplomatic crisis, there were no signs of the bitter dispute being resolved.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and others accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups.

Qatar strongly rejects the allegations and says it is open to talks on ending the dispute, which also saw the three Gulf states order all Qataris out of their countries within 14 days.

The crisis has raised major concerns of instability in the region, and on Sunday Kuwait's foreign minister said his country would continue its mediation efforts.

State media reported late Saturday Doha would "not take any measures against residents of Qatar who hold the nationalities of countries that severed diplomatic ties".

This will come as a relief to the more than 11,000 people from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain living in Qatar.

Opening channels with Oman ports

Meanwhile, Qatar's port authority announced the launch of two new services from Hamad Port to Oman's Sohar and Salalah ports, circumventing the need for cargo to stop in the neighbouring UAE.

The UAE had for decades served as a central stopping point in cargo shipments.

Iran on Sunday announced it had sent five planes carrying produce to Qatar. Three ships carrying 350 tonnes of food are also set to leave Iran for the emirate.

Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said five aircraft carrying around 90 tonnes of vegetables each had been sent to Qatar in recent days.

"We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand," Noushabadi added, without saying if these were commercial exports or aid.

Turkey is also tipped to play a major role in supplying Qatar with food.

'Business as usual'

Despite the unprecedented sanctions, Qatar says that its crucial exports of liquified natural gas have not been interrupted.

"Qatar Petroleum... is conducting business as usual throughout all its upstream, midstream and downstream businesses and operations, and in all activities across all of QP's world-class facilities," a statement read.

Qatar's Central Bank also said on Monday that banking transactions at home and abroad were continuing normally despite the diplomatic crisis.

In a statement released on the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA), Central Bank governor Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud Al-Thani dismissed concerns over liquidity levels.

"The banking and banking transactions and procedures in the State of Qatar continue to be normal, both at the level of local financial transactions and between the Qatari banking sector and foreign banks," the statement read.

It added that the governor "stressed that the liquidity levels in the Qatari banking sector are good and meet all customer requirements".

AU chairman calls for 'dialogue'

Meanwhile, mediation efforts to solve the crisis continue.

African Union chairman Alpha Conde on Sunday put himself forward as a mediator in the crisis, urging dialogue after several African nations also recalled their ambassadors to Doha.

Conde, who is president of Guinea which has close ties to Saudi Arabia, said in a letter to King Salman he had observed with "sadness" the feud between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, which he described as "brother countries" of his Muslim-majority country.

African nations including Chad, Niger and Senegal have recalled their ambassadors to Doha in recent days, while Mauritania has cut relations entirely.

Conde offered as AU chairman to "mediate... in order to find a swift and peaceful solution to this crisis".

"Only dialogue will allow us to reach a real compromise," Conde added.

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O, Allah, please disperse those who wanted dispersion for this nation!

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The return of countries to their unity is the centre of power for the Gulf Co-operation Council, which is the remaining capital for Arab countries and the winning card. This is an example to be followed in federal unions. The siege doesn't please God or His prophet. May God guide those who have gone astray!

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