Persian Gulf Crisis Stretches to 4 Months

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October 29, 2017

The diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf region is entering its fourth month, with no signs that it will be resolved anytime soon.

The target of a blockade, Qatar is continuing to try to cope without an open border with its only land neighbor, Saudi Arabia, and with disruption of its air and sea traffic. Saudi Arabia and three other countries, have refused a diplomatic solution for several weeks. The last communication between Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was a phone call on September 8; that conversation did not result in any resolution of the crisis.

Qatar stands accused–by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Edmirates–of financing international terrorism, in particular by currying favor with Iran. Qatar has refuted the charges, saying that it has assisted in battles against ISIS, and has counterclaimed that the other countries are trying to curb the influence of Qatar's Al-Jazeera news network.

The crisis began in June with a series of moves to isolate Qatar by land, air, and sea. The country has one land neighbor, Saudi Arabia, which traditionally has supplied much of its neighbor's food needs. Qatar has accelerated the opening of a new port, named the Hamad Port after the emir, as a way of pursuing its goal of economic diversification. The port accommodates larger container ships, enabling Qatar to bypass UAE docks entirely. Doha continues to be one of the busiest cities, even though flights to and from there still avoid cities in the countries opposing Qatar in the crisis.

In other developments:

  • The chair of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the Arabian Peninsula met with Qatar's foreign minister recently.
  • Bahrain, one of the nations involved, has issued a call for Qatar to be effectively banned from the Gulf Cooperation Council.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to try again for mediation, Qatar's leader said. Trump made a similar attempt not long after the crisis began.
  • Qatar has signed military agreements with Russia. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shouigu was in Qatar recently.
  • The Saudi crown prince had high praise for Kuwait's semi, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who is still trying to resolve the crisis.
  • Turkey has made further investments in health and pharmaceuticals within Qatar. The two countries have traded visits between high-ranking officials in recent weeks.
  • The United Arab Emirates has hired a media company with ties to former Trump advisor Steve Bannon to start a social media campaign to support the blockade of Qatar.

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