x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 September 2017

Qatari emir travels to Turkey as economic pressure grows 

In his first trip abroad since the crisis started, Sheikh Tamim will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, prior to their talks at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday, September 12, 2017.  Presidency Press Service via AP
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, prior to their talks at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Presidency Press Service via AP

The Qatari emir will travel to Turkey on Thursday amid increasing economic pressure at home after 100 days of boycott from neighbouring countries over Doha’s alleged support of terror groups.

In his first trip abroad since the crisis started, Sheikh Tamim will meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and hold talks on "bilateral ties and regional as well as international developments," the Turkish presidency said.

Mr Erdogan has supported Qatar and helped supply food and other goods despite an embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. The quartet accuse Qatar of supporting and financing extremist groups, interfering in their internal affairs and having close relations with Iran.

At an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Tuesday the four countries reiterated their accusations of Qatar’s support of terror.

Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said: "It is important that the approach of supporting terrorism and extremism and interfering in our and other Arab countries' affairs changes.

“We will continue our measures against Qatar until that approach is changed and until we ensure that we are safe from such hostile policies.”

The Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that Kuwait’s mediation in the Qatar crisis had led to a significant de-escalation of in the Gulf. He was speaking ahead of a meeting with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak.

During a visit to Washington over the weekend, the emir of Kuwait said his countries’ mediation successfully stopped a military intervention.

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At the Arab League meeting, Dr Gargash denied that the UAE, and its three allies in the crisis, had ever considered a military option during the dispute.

The four countries, which cut off relations with Qatar on June 5, have insisted on their desire for dialogue. But despite all mediation attempts, which have included dozens of leaders from around the world, little progress has been made towards a resolution over the last three months.

US president Donald Trump called Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on Tuesday “to discuss efforts to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar”.

The White House said the call “underscored the importance of unity among United States partners in the region”, showing Washington’s desire to patch the worst row the GCC has experienced in its 35-year history. 

Mr Trump also stressed “the need for all countries to do more to cut off funding for terrorist groups, discredit extremist ideology, and defeat terrorism”.

The US president’s call to the UAE leadership came days after mediation efforts stalled in an attempt to start direct dialogue between Doha and the four Arab states.

Following a call from Qatar’s emir to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday, Riyadh suspended all talks and accused Doha of issuing "false reports”.

Tuesday’s call was Mr Trump’s third to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed since the Qatar dispute started last June. Mr Trump also called Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz five times, Saudi Crown prince three times, and the Emir of Qatar two times.

Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the dispute continues.

In a report released on Wednesday, rating agency Moody's said the three-month dispute had created uncertainty across the Gulf region and could negatively affect the credit outlook of all the countries involved.

The crisis has caused Qatari imports to fall 40 per cent in June from a year earlier and 35 per cent in July, Bloomberg reported. 

The quartet’s measures have exacerbated a broader slowdown in Qatar triggered by lower energy prices, with economists expecting gross domestic product to expand at the slowest pace since 1995 this year. Reserves of foreign currency meanwhile tumbled 30 per cent in June.

Qatar has looked to Iran, Turkey and Oman for new trade routes.

Qatar also recently opened a new US$7.4 billion (Dh27.2bn) port that sprawls across 26 square kilometres of desert.