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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Bahrain accuses Qatar of illegally seizing three boats

Doha confirmed detaining the fishing boats, which were carrying 16 sailors, claiming they had trespassed its territorial waters illegally

A total of 8.7 million tourists visited Bahrain in the first nine months of 2017, a 12 per cent increase from the same period last year. Saurabh Das / AP
A total of 8.7 million tourists visited Bahrain in the first nine months of 2017, a 12 per cent increase from the same period last year. Saurabh Das / AP

Bahrain has accused Qatari authorities of illegally seizing three boats carrying 16 sailors in the last three days.

This raises the number of boats seized by Qatar to 15 and the number of sailors in its custody to 20, Coast Guard commander Commodore Ala’a Siyadi said, according to the Bahrain News Agency on Monday. Some of the incidents go back to 2009.

Qatar confirmed detaining the fishing boats, claiming they had trespassed its territorial waters illegally. It said the sailors would be released soon.

The incident is likely to exacerbate an already tense situation between the two countries. Bahrain is one of four Arab countries boycotting Qatar over accusations of funding extremism and interfering in the domestic affairs of its neighbours.

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Commander Siyadi urged the parties involved to show their commitment to legal procedures in accordance with international conventions on maritime safety in this regard.

He said the Coast Guard has been taking the required steps to have the sailors and the boats released.

Bahrain and Qatar have been engaged in territorial disputes over a number of islands situated between the two countries.

Tensions spiked in the 1980s when Bahrain established a military presence on one of the disputed islands. Qatar said the move was a violation of their agreement to maintain the status quo.

The situation almost led to military escalation as Qatar began deploying troops on the island facing Bahraini forces but the international community quickly intervened.

In 2001, the International Court of Justice in The Hague gave each country control of equal parts of the disputed territories, but tensions still remain high over the islands.

Bahrain's announcement that three of its boats had been illegally seized by Qatar came as Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said the solution to the row between Qatar and the quartet of Arab countries lay in Doha's hands.

Saudi Arabia is also among the four countries boycotting Qatar, along with the UAE and Egypt.

Speaking after a meeting with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mr Al Jubeir reiterated that the row began because of Qatar's failure to stop supporting terrorism and to stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries in the region, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Mr Al Jubeir also attended a meeting of foreign ministers from the quartet in new York on Monday, which discussed the Qatar crisis.

The quartet, which cut off relations with Qatar on June 5, has insisted on its desire for dialogue with Qatar. But despite all mediation attempts, which have involved dozens of leaders from around the world, little progress has been made towards a resolution.

Among the economic pressures on Qatar, the boycott has led to an increase in foreign withdrawals from domestic banks. In response, the authorities increased support of domestic banks for the third month in a row in August, Bloomberg reported.

Public-sector deposits grew by 10.5 per cent to 295 billion riyals (Dh294bn) from 267bn riyals in July, according to central bank data. That brings the increase to about 53 billion riyals since the crisis started.