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Qatar isolation threat as airspace and route ban over terror accusations

Posted 5 June 2017 · Add Comment

The five main UAE and Bahraini airlines are halting flights to Doha as a diplomatic row escalates between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen and states threaten to close their airspace to Qatar airlines.


Etihad, Emirates, Flydubai Air Arabia and Gulf Air said this morning they will end to services to Doha with effect from tomorrow. 

Saudi Arabia has announced a ban on any of its citizens going to Qatar and is closing land, air and sea borders.
The other four nations are doing the same and are proposing closure of airspace to Qatar aircraft, effectively isolating the GCC nation.
Saudi Arabia said the move was necessary to protect the kingdom from what it described as terrorism and extremism. The kingdom also pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stay united and solve their differences, after Riyadh severed ties with Doha and asked its allies to follow suit.
“We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences,” Tillerson said early today.
Accusations against Qatar include “meddling in internal affairs” and “supporting terrorism and sectarianism”.
In turn Qatar denies these allegations and blames the hacking of its official news agency was hacked last week, which was followed by fake remarks critical of US foreign policy posted on its website and wrongly attributed to Qatar’s leader.
In Washington, a series of emails belonging to the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the US have been leaked. These allegedly reveal close coordination between the diplomat and a pro-Israeli think-tank.
News reports quote the emails are calling on the Americans to move their military base from Qatar to the UAE.
The ban could have a devastating effect on Qatar. It bans Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens from travelling to Qatar, living there or passing through it, according to the Saudi government. People affected have 14 days to leave.
Meanwhile Qataris will have the same amount of time to get out of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
A major concern for Qatar will be if Egypt issues a similar ban. Around 180,000 Egyptians live in Qatar - with many involved in engineering, medicine and law as well as construction.
There are also fears about food and materials shortages as much passes through the land borders with Saudi Arabia.
Qatar Airways would also be at risk if it is banned from the Saudi or Bahrain airspace which surrounds the peninsula. It has not made any statement on the likely cancellation of flights to the four countries
CEO of the airline Akbar Al Baker is currently at the IATA annual meeting in Cancun Mexico along with other airline leaders – the subject is likely to be a main talking point when the conference opens later today.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE say closure of their airspace will take place "within 24 hours", while Egypt and Saudi Arabia have yet to specify when the closure will take effect.

Analyst Saj Ahmed said: "Qatar Airways will of course be severely impacted on key regional routes, especially to cities like Dubai. But then so to with other GCC/Arab carriers that also fly into Doha. So the damage here isn't a one-way street - both sides will hurt and in the mix will be passengers who'll have to spend more to get to where they want to be.
"The fallout of this spat is far from clear - this has the potency to be a protracted affair. While Qatar Airways can look to its more profitable long haul operations to offset the costs of losing or standing down regional flights, the cost of parking airplanes, crew and other services will not be cheap. 
The fallout for Qatar and other regional neighbours will be quite expansive if air services are not reinstated quickly.
"That said, some travellers may opt to fly to Qatar via Iran, depending on their departure point and the cost(s) incurred - so there's definitely an opportunity for Iran to step in. The question now is whether this stalemate between GCC neighbouring countries is short or long term and at this point, it’s all very opaque."

 

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