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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Costs of Qatar boycott revealed at Abu Dhabi forum

Political analysts and academics gathered in the capital to discuss the consequences of the Qatar crisis almost one year on

Doha's skyline. Experts and academics gathered in Abu Dhabi on Monday to review the effect of the crisis on Qatar’s economy and political standing. EPA
Doha's skyline. Experts and academics gathered in Abu Dhabi on Monday to review the effect of the crisis on Qatar’s economy and political standing. EPA

Qatar refuses to adhere to terms set by four Arab countries despite sustaining heavy financial losses from the boycott imposed almost a year ago, political analysts have said.

Experts and academics gathered in Abu Dhabi on Monday to review the effect of the crisis on Qatar’s economy and political standing, namely their ability to host the World Cup in 2022.

“We are talking about 2022 and now we are in 2018. If they have not been able to complete 40 per cent of the project, how will they finish 100 per cent by then?” asked Omar Bahlaiwa, president of Optimum Business Consulting Bureau.

“We will wait for the World Cup in Russia and see what happens,” he said, suggesting that Qatar could be reconsidered as host of the football championship.

He said labour and trade are the two main challenges that arose for Qatar with the embargo.

“Shipping goods to Qatar has become very costly after the boycott because now they have to bring raw material from outside the region,” he said. Previously the country would import building materials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatari efforts to end the boycott through several means have failed — which included unsuccessful attempts at driving a wedge between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, said Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, author and a political science professor at UAE University.

“It fabricated news, made up statements, rumours, but the relationship only grew stronger,” Dr Abdullah said.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain severed links with Qatar in June 2017 over its support of extremists and interference in other countries’ affairs.

The four countries have said Doha must fulfil the demands presented to it last year before ties can be normalised.

The list of 13 demands includes Qatar closing Al Jazeera television, reducing its relations with Iran and closing a Turkish military base in the country. The list was presented to Qatar last June, shortly after the boycott was imposed.

On Monday, Dr Abdullah said Qatar has been “playing the victim” in a bid to prompt international intervention and avoid fulfilling those demands.

“It has used its diplomatic relations and influence going from East to West. It is true that there has been some international sympathy but they always received the same answer: ‘the problem is with the GCC and it should be solved within the GCC’”.

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Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, agreed saying Qatar has manipulated the language used to describe the crisis in a bid to gain sympathy.

He said the country has repeatedly called the boycott a blockade during press conferences and workshops to exaggerate the severity of the embargo.

“Qatar has deployed money to buy research centres, media platforms and politicians so that they would support Qatar’s policies.”

He said the country managed to infiltrate international media organisations in attempts to win favour from the public.

“Qatar appears politically exhausted, but it is still resisting (the boycott) and ready to pay all costs,” said Dr Abdullah. “It has decided not to give up to the boycott, not for another year, or two, or three.”

Dr Abdullah added that Qatar also has “powerful aggressive platforms” which are far more influential than the country itself, including Al Jazeera.

Dr Ibtisam Al Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Centre, which organised the forum, said both Qatar and the Arab Quartet had to be wary that the crisis would be taken advantage of by “international players” to use for their own agendas.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, a European ambassador visited me and said: ‘everybody will be using you, they will come to you tell you that you are right, and they will go to Qatar and tell them they are right’.”