Saudi Arabia has denied that Qatar is under blockade, while Iraq has warned it is affecting ordinary citizens
A portrait of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and text reading in Arabic: “We are all Tamim” on a billboard outside the Qatar Sports club in Doha (AFP)
The land border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar used to see thousands of passengers transit across it each day (Reuters)
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir insisted Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has not imposed a “blockade” on Qatar by closing the border and banning Doha’s planes from its air space.
Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia is its only land frontier, and the closure of Saudi, Bahraini and Emirati airspace to Qatar Airways jets has disrupted its normal routes.
But Jubeir, in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – who called last week for the embargo to be “eased” – insisted the move was reasonable.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies accuse Qatar of supporting “terrorism” in the region, something Doha denies, while Doha’s supporters – such as Turkey – have warned of a humanitarian crisis.
“There is no blockade of Qatar. Qatar is free to go. The ports are open, the airports are open,” Jubeir said, appearing alongside a silent Tillerson.
“What we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right.
“The limitation on the use of Saudi airspace is only limited to Qatari airways or Qatari-owned aircraft, not anybody else.
“The seaports of Qatar are open. There is no blockade on them. Qatar can move goods in and out whenever they want. They just cannot use our territorial waters.”
Jubeir said the closure of the border had been eased to allow divided families to be reunited, and that Saudi Arabia would send food or medical aid if needed.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and allies abruptly severed all ties with Qatar on 5 June.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, due to travel to Riyadh on Wednesday for talks with Saudi King Salman, said on Tuesday that the country opposed the isolation of Qatar, as it is hurting ordinary citizens.
“Regimes are not affected by the blockade; the blockade hurts people,” Abadi told reporters in Baghdad.
Abadi said he would seek clarification from Saudi Arabia about the accusations made against Qatar.
US says operations against Islamic State unaffected
The Gulf rift is not affecting US military operations, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday.
“We are watching that very, very closely but we have had good cooperation from all the parties to make sure that we can continue to move freely in and out of Qatar,” Joseph Dunford told a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
The Pentagon said last week that after Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed economic and diplomatic boycotts on Qatar, current US military operations against Islamic State had not been affected but it was “hindering” the ability to plan for long-term operations.
On Tuesday, Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced a resolution – alongside two Democrat senators – to block a major US arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
The resolution is expected to be voted on as early as Tuesday.
The vote will be close. It is time we stop the counterproductive and harmful practice of arming a country that promotes extremism