Saudi Arabia and the UAE exempt Qatari spouses caught in GCC crisis
ABU DHABI // Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will make exceptions on humanitarian grounds for some Qatari residents who have been ordered to leave the three countries.
The GCC countries said on Sunday that Qataris married to their own citizens will be exempt from the order, which was part a series of measures taken last week to isolate Qatar over its support of Islamist and terrorist groups.
Qatar also said on Sunday that citizens of other states that have severed ties with Doha will be allowed to stay in the country.
A hotline has been set up to offer support for Emirati-Qatari families in the UAE under instructions from President Sheikh Khalifa.
“The well-being of the brotherly Qatari people is a natural authentic extension of the brotherly UAE people,” the WAM state news agency said.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also set up similar services on Sunday.
UAE airports and borders have been ordered to allow any Qatari citizens who are immediate relatives of Emiratis to pass through.
Meanwhile, Qatar said it would not “take any measures against residents of Qatar who hold the nationalities of countries that severed diplomatic ties or lowered diplomatic representations with the state of Qatar”, Qatar’s state news agency reported.
There are more than 11,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain resident in Qatar, three quarters of whom are Saudi, and about 250,000 residents from Egypt, which has also severed ties with Doha.
Intermarriage between citizens of GCC states is routine, and family and tribal connections both precede the creation of the six countries and continue today.
The orders against Qatar would have affected many families across the Gulf. The National was told of one case in which an Emirati woman living in the UAE with her Qatari husband and Qatari children would have had to be separated under the original order. With both sides’ announcements on Sunday, families in similar circumstances may be able to avoid separation.
The solution came as mediation efforts continued to settle the most serious crisis in the history of GCC relations.
Kuwait said on Sunday that Qatar was ready to listen to the concerns of the Gulf states that have cut diplomatic and economic ties.
“[Kuwait] affirms the readiness of the brothers in Qatar to understand the reality of the qualms and concerns of their brothers and to heed the noble endeavours to enhance security and stability,” foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah said.
Kuwait, which has retained ties with Qatar and has often acted as a mediator in regional disputes, said it wanted to resolve the dispute “within the unified Gulf house”.
Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, responded by tweeting: “Is this the beginning of wisdom and reasonable thinking? I hope so.”
The US secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Friday urged the countries to ease some of their measures against Qatar. “Families are being forcibly separated, and children pulled out of school,” he said. “We believe these are unintended consequences, especially during this Holy Month of Ramadan, but they can be addressed immediately.”
The restrictions on travel and commerce with Qatar have affected the country’s food imports, much of which come through the land border with Saudi Arabia and re-exports from the UAE.
Doha’s closest ally, Turkey, has said it is increasing food shipments to Qatar, and Iran has so far ordered six planeloads of food to be sent, Iran’s national airlines told the AFP on Sunday.
“So far five planes carrying perishable food items such as fruit and vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent today,” Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said.
* Families affected by the Qatar crisis can contact the Ministry of Interior’s Aman hotline service at +9718002626