Threat to 2022 World Cup in Qatar as Arab states cut travel links

Sky News | Monday 05 June 2017

There has been panic buying in shops, travel disruption and fears over the 2022 World Cup since five countries cut ties with Doha.

There has been panic buying in Qatari supermarkets after Saudi Arabia closed land borders

 

By Connor Sephton, News Reporter

Qatar has been engulfed by a diplomatic crisis, with Saudi Arabia and four other Arab countries severing their ties with the energy-rich nation.

The tiny Gulf state is accused of supporting terror organisations that “aim to destabilise the region” – but Doha has long denied supporting militant groups.

Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, have begun to cut off land, sea and air routes to the international travel hub.

There was panic buying in supermarkets after Saudi Arabia closed off its land border with Qatar – a major source of food imports.

Extensive travel disruption is also expected, as regional airlines including EgyptAir, Etihad and Emirates have suspended flights to and from Doha.

:: Oil prices wobble amid diplomatic rift

A man stands outside a closed Qatar Airways branch in Saudi Arabia's capital, RiyadhA man stands outside a closed Qatar Airways branch in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh

 

Qataris living in the four countries have been given 14 days to return home, with Qatar’s diplomats also set to be ejected.

The crisis could also have consequences for football’s World Cup, which is due to be hosted in Qatar in 2022.

Experts say Qatar’s insistence that it is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East was a key reason why it was controversially chosen.

Officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, maintain that Qatar has “embraced” groups including al Qaeda, Islamic State, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, Qatar insists that the crisis has been fuelled by “absolute fabrications” – with the foreign affairs ministry saying there is “no legitimate justification” for the decision.

:: Investors watch Gulf spat with unease

In a statement, the Qatari government vowed to “thwart attempts to influence and harm the Qatari society and economy”.

As the row deepened, Qatar’s Stock Exchange fell by more than 7% – and there has also been volatility with oil prices.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has urged representatives from across the Gulf to “sit down together and address their differences”.

Turkey has also called for dialogue – with the country’s foreign minister saying he is “saddened by the current picture”.

On state television, Saudi Arabia announced it has shut down the Riyadh bureau of Al Jazeera, an influential Qatari broadcaster.

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