Deadline for Qataris to leave UAE has passed
Abu Dhabi // The deadline for Qatari nationals to leave the UAE passed on Sunday, as the Gulf political crisis showed no signs of nearing a resolution.
Bahrain ordered all Qatari military personnel serving in the US-led coalition fighting ISIL as part of the US Naval Forces Central Command, which is headquartered in Bahrain, to leave the country.
“The Bahrainis told the US general in command of the base that Qatari soldiers must leave,” a source told AFP on Sunday. “They are still in the base but likely to leave within the next two days.”
Qatar is not thought to have a significant number of troops at the base, and there are likely to be only a small number of officers.
Bahrain accuses Qatar of direct interference in its internal affairs dating back to the Arab Spring. Qatar denies the charges.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt moved to isolate Qatar on June 5 over what they say is Doha’s support for extremism and use of Qatar-based media to attack them. The measures included an unprecedented order for all Qataris resident in the three GCC countries to leave within 14 days.
An exception for Qatari nationals married to Saudi or Emirati citizens was declared last week, as a humanitarian gesture.
Qatari citizens are also not allowed to transit through the UAE, and all direct travel and commerce links have also been severed. As a result, Qataris returning home by air will have to travel via Oman or Kuwait, the two other GCC members who have not taken measures against Qatar, while the land route, typically a six-hour drive from Abu Dhabi to Doha, is not an option as Riyadh has closed the Saudi-Qatar border crossing.
“The easiest and most viable option is to go via Muscat. The aviation authority has blocked all flights; they have specifically blocked Qatari airlines from going over UAE airspace,” a UAE-based flight analyst said. “The problem becomes how to get their personal belongings back home in short notice – that would require shipping containers, so that also has to be addressed.”
Travel, however, is less of a concern than managing school, jobs and businesses as the crisis continues. Qatari businesspeople have reportedly been selling off their assets in the UAE ahead of the deadline and as yet there have been few signs of a quick resolution.
The US secretary of state is leading Washington’s efforts at mediation among its three key GCC partners. Qatar, the world’s largest natural gas producer, has also sought diplomatic support from its global economic and strategic partners.
Qatar is also the main supplier of natural gas to the UAE, via the Dolphin pipeline that supplies two billion cubic feet of gas daily to the country, as well as gas to Oman, and is Doha’s main point of leverage. Doha has no plans to cut off the gas supply, the chief executive of Qatar Petroleum, Saad Al Kaabi, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
Updated: June 18, 2017 04:00 AM