Qatar Airways drops plans to buy stake in American Airlines

• Defying Sunni Arab neighbors, Qatar restores full diplomatic relations with Iran
• Information and narrative wars between Doha and other Arab capitals continue as crisis prolongs
• Qatar Airways ends plans to purchase a stake in American Airlines
• Al-Jazeera condemns Israeli government’s announced plans to shut down the network
• Top Russian diplomat visits Doha to address the Qatar crisis


August 2
Qatar Airways drops plans to buy stake in American Airlines
Qatar Airways abruptly dropped plans to a buy 10 percent stake in American Airlines, citing the carrier’s “latest public disclosure”, a reference to the airline’s second-quarter performance. In light of the disclosure, which American released on July 28, 2017, Qatar Airways said the “investment no longer meets our objectives”. A spokesperson for American responded, “We respect Qatar Airways’ decision not to proceed with its proposed investment in American Airlines.”

August 7
Al-Jazeera responds to Israel’s decision to shut it down
Qatar’s state-owned global news network, al-Jazeera, condemned the Israeli government’s decision to shut down its operations. Al-Jazeera vowed to take legal action after Ayoub Kara, Israel’s communications minister, alleged that the network promoted “terroristic
journalism” and declared that Israeli authorities would cancel its Jerusalem bureau’s press credentials and halt al-Jazeera’s transmissions in the Jewish state.

August 9
Gulf Times hails Qatar as “most open country in the region” following Doha’s visa announcement
Qatar’s Ministry of Interior, Qatar Tourism Authority, and Qatar Airways have all announced that citizens of 80 countries can enter the Arabian emirate visa-free. Gulf Times hailed the announcement, claiming that it made Qatar the “most open country in the region” and quoted Abkar al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, who declared that citizens from these several dozen countries can now enter Qatar “with no paper work, no payment, and no visas.”

He continued: “Many of these visitors who otherwise may not have considered a stay in our beautiful country will no doubt go on to share their experience with others. These new ambassadors will be vital to achieving our target of
over 7 million tourists by the year 2030.”

Bahrain and the UAE grant Qatar Airways routes in both countries despite blockade
Two months into the Qatar crisis, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) announced that its work with “various Middle Eastern states to ensure equitable access to airspace for Qatar-registered aircraft” led to Bahrain and the UAE granting Qatar Airways access to routes in international waters controlled by both GCC states.

August 19
Doha files complaint with ICAO over video report about Qatar Airways
In response to a Saudi report, which alleged that a Qatar Airways airplane had been shot down, officials in Doha filed a complaint with the ICAO. In a letter delivered to the Montreal-based agency of the United Nations, the report, which al-Arabiya TV aired on August 9, constituted a “clear and serious violation” of international law, namely the 1944 Chicago Convention.

Qatar restores ambassador to Tehran
Doha’s foreign ministry announced that it plans to strengthen relations with Iran in all fields and to return its ambassador to Tehran, having withdrawn the Qatari envoy in January 2016. The foreign ministry released a statement that Doha’s chief diplomat had
spoken by phone with his Iranian counterpart about “boosting and developing” Qatari-Iranian relations.

Analysis: This development illustrates the quartet’s failure to create more distance between Doha and Tehran by pressuring Qatar into severing relations with Iran, which was one of the original 13 demands, by blockading the peninsula state. To the contrary, the Qatar crisis has pushed Doha closer to the Islamic Republic.

Emir of Qatar introduces law to protect foreign workers

To protect tens of thousands of foreign domestic staff in the Arabian emirate, Qatar’s monarch introduced a law addressing concerns voiced by a host of human rights organizations. Under the new rules, foreign workers, who must be between 18 and 60 years of age, cannot labor for more than ten hours per day, are entitled to mandatory work breaks, and must receive three weeks of annual vacation. Additionally, food and medical coverage must be provided for them.

Analysis: The Qatar crisis has helped push Doha to accept a more liberal worker system. The lifting of the kafala system helps laborers gain more rights and freedoms. Yet lingering questions over exit visa permission remain unanswered.

August 25
Qatar shuts down its embassy in Chad
Following the Chadian government’s decision to close Doha’s embassy in N’Djamena, Qatar’s ambassador to Chad, Ahmed bin Saeed al-Rumaihi, announced Doha’s plans to shut down its embassy in the Central African country. The Qatari ambassador emphasized that the reasons provided by Chadian authorities for closing Doha’s embassy were baseless, maintaining that N’Djamena’s decision was related to the Saudi/UAE-led bloc’s actions against the Arabian emirate.

Analysis: Chad’s turnaround on Qatar illustrates the strategically-located Central African country’s changing geopolitical nature. Chad’s borders with Libya and Sudan are becoming increasingly crucial to protect and monitor due to the movement of both terrorist groups and their affiliates through Chad and its neighbor, Niger, as well as the violent and nefarious nonstate actors operating in Libya’s multifaceted civil war. Chad also signed a military security agreement with Russia at the time of Qatar’s ouster from N’Djamena, which cannot be overlooked in any analysis of Chadian-Qatari relations.

Turkey detains five suspected of playing a role in May 2017 hacking of Qatar News Agency
Qatar’s attorney general, Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri, stated that Turkish authorities have detained and begun investigating five individuals suspected of involvement in the hacking of Qatar News Agency shortly before the Saudi/UAE-led bloc of countries severed relations with Doha on June 5, 2017.

August 27
Sheik Saif bin Ahmed al Thani, government communications director, discusses Qatari foreign policy
Qatar’s government communications director gave an interview with the Los Angeles Times in which he defended Doha’s foreign policy against accusations made by the quartet countries. He declared, “We don’t have a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood…Qatar
does not fund terrorism whatsoever.”

Saudi Arabia accuses Qatar of blocking Saudi planes transporting Qatari Hajj pilgrims
The kingdom’s state-owned media, Saudi Press Agency (SPA), reported that officials in Doha have prevented Saudi planes from carrying pilgrims from the Arabian emirate into Saudi Arabia for Hajj. According to the Saudi government’s report, Qatari authorities cited paper work issues, yet SPA reported that “the paperwork was filed days ago”, placing the blame on Doha.

August 30
Doha’s foreign minister says Qatar willing to negotiate despite alleged unwillingness on the quartet’s part
While speaking at a press conference in Doha with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, stated that his country was willing to enter into negotiations with the Saudi/UAE-led bloc. Yet he maintained that those Arab states blockading Qatar have demonstrated no sign of willingness to negotiate.

In Sheikh Mohammed’s words, “Qatar maintains its position that this crisis can only be resolved through a constructive dialogue … but the blockading counties are not responding to any efforts being conducted by Kuwait or other friendly countries.” Lavrov stated that if face-to-face negotiations would commence, the Kremlin is prepared to assist with mediatory efforts, maintaining that it serves Moscow’s interests “for the GCC to be united and strong.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons

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