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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

France appoints envoy to mediate between Qatar and Arab states

Paris has so far not taken as active a role as Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom in trying to broker a resolution to the Doha crisis

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attends the opening ceremony of the Hamad port in Doha on September 5, 2017. Qatar News Agency / Handout via Reuters
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attends the opening ceremony of the Hamad port in Doha on September 5, 2017. Qatar News Agency / Handout via Reuters

France has picked its former ambassador to Saudi Arabia as a special envoy to try and help mediation efforts in the Qatar crisis.

France, which has close ties with Egypt and the UAE while also being a major arms supplier to Qatar and a key ally of Saudi Arabia, has called for calm in the dispute. But Paris has not taken as active a role as Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom in trying to broker a resolution.

"I confirm that Bertrand Besancenot, diplomatic adviser to the government, will soon go to the region to evaluate the situation and the best ways to support the mediation and appease tensions between Qatar and its neighbours," foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne said.

The dispute erupted in June when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties over Qatar’s support of terrorist and extremist groups.

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Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah has led mediation efforts to resolve the row, but has made little headway with Qatar refusing to comply with a list of demands put forward by the quartet.

The boycott measures have taken a severe toll on Doha’s economy and construction projects. Most of the country’s goods were previously transported through its land border with Saudi Arabia or shipped through Emirati ports.

Qatar has turned to Turkey and Iran for help, flying in goods at much higher cost.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Tuesday that Qatar’s isolation would only end when it addressed the concerns of its neighbours.

“Qatar has found itself in a desperate situation without its allies, replacing its neighbours is impossible geopolitically or culturally,” Dr Gargash tweeted.

On Tuesday, Qatar inaugurated a new US$7.4 (Dh27.2) billion port that officials hope will shield its economy against the sanctions.

The Hamad port, 40 kilometres south of Doha, has already received food and building materials for construction projects, including stadiums for the 2022 soccer World Cup.

But officials on Tuesday said Hamad port would allow Qatar to get around the sanctions by importing goods directly from countries such as China and Oman.

"The port … will break the shackles of any restrictions imposed on our economy. We are not giving up on our hopes and ambitions," Qatari transport minister Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti said.

Closure of the Saudi border with Qatar and disruption to shipping routes via the UAE slashed Qatar's imports by more than a third from year-earlier levels in June and July. Institutions in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have also begun pulling money out of Qatari banks.

Despite its claims of being 'under blockade', Qatar has also expanded shipping routes to India, Oman, Turkey and Pakistan and announced plans to raise its liquefied natural gas (LNG) output by 30 per cent in an effort to weather the boycott.