Hotlines seen as Gulf bid to ease humanitarian impact

Customers at the al-Meera market in the Qatari capital Doha on Saturday. The blockade has disrupted food and material supplies to import- dependent Qatar. Iran yesterday said it had sent four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 ton
Customers at the al-Meera market in the Qatari capital Doha on Saturday. The blockade has disrupted food and material supplies to import- dependent Qatar. Iran yesterday said it had sent four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day, amid concerns of food shortages.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

S. Arabia, Bahrain, UAE act to help families with Qatari members hit by severing of ties

DUBAI • Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced hotlines to help families with Qatari members, their official news agencies reported, after their cutting of diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar led to travel disruption.

The coordinated move suggests the Gulf states are seeking to lessen the humanitarian impact of their surprise June 5 severing of ties with Qatar, in retaliation for what they call its support for terrorism and their regional foe Iran.

Qatar has called the accusations baseless and described the measures as a "siege" harmful to ordinary people there.

Meanwhile, Kuwait's foreign minister yesterday said Qatar was ready to listen to the concerns of other countries in the Gulf, state news agency Kuna reported.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah was quoted as saying: "Kuwait will not abandon its efforts and will continue its goodwill efforts to patch the rift and find a solution that will deal with the root cause of the causes of the dispute... in the brotherly relations."

The three countries' news agencies did not make clear what services the hotlines would provide.

But in language common to the three countries, the UAE said it drew a distinction between Qatar's government and its people.

DEALING WITH ROOT CAUSE

Kuwait will not abandon its efforts and will continue its goodwill efforts to patch the rift and find a solution that will deal with the root cause of the causes of the dispute... in the brotherly relations.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHEIKH SABAH AL-KHALID AL-SABAH

The hotlines showed "the UAE's commitment to the well-being of the brotherly Qatari people as a natural, authentic extension of their brothers in the UAE", it said.

The June 5 measures have also disrupted food and material supplies to the import-dependent country.

Iran yesterday said it had sent four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day, amid concerns of food shortages.

Amnesty International on Friday criticised the measures against Qatar as sweeping and arbitrary and said they had split up families and destroyed people's livelihoods and education.

The political dispute has led to air links being cut and Qataris banned from visiting the three countries. Previously, the Gulf societies enjoyed close travel ties and intermarriages were common.

Meanwhile, a Qatari human rights group plans to take legal action over what it says is "damage to citizens and the economy" from the Saudi-led blockade of the gas-rich Gulf state.

Mr Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri, chairman of Qatar's National Human Rights Committee, told reporters in Doha that the group is shopping for an international law firm to take the case, and is soliciting a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Even if the political crisis isn't solved, the blockade affecting people should be lifted," Mr Al Marri said. "It's a violation of human rights."

Qatari citizens residing in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain were told to leave within 14 days. Rights groups say families are being split apart, and some Qataris had to halt pilgrimages to Mecca during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Qatar yesterday moved to avoid an escalation of the feud, telling citizens of its Gulf neighbours that they are welcome to stay.

Yesterday, the Russian foreign ministry said Russia and the US are ready to help resolve the diplomatic rift over Qatar's alleged support for militants and ties to Iran.

Mr Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, discussed Qatar with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call on Saturday. They both "stressed the need to resolve the disagreements through negotiation and expressed their readiness to contribute to such efforts", the ministry said in a statement.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'Hotlines seen as Gulf bid to ease humanitarian impact'. Print Edition | Subscribe