Mutlaq al-Qahtani, a senior counterterrorism adviser to Qatar’s foreign minister, said that Qatar hosted the Taliban “by request by the United States government” and as part of Qatar’s ‘open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate and to bring peace’. The U.S. “should be the leader trying to break this blockade, and not sitting and watching what’s going on and putting fuel” on the fire.
The diplomatic crisis, the worst since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the subsequent Gulf War, has seen Arab nations and others cut ties to Qatar, which hosts a major USA military base and will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Hamad Al Ali, who is accused of facilitating terrorist attacks in Kuwait, Iraq and elsewhere, described the measures taken against Doha as an “atrocious and heinous siege of the people of Qatar”.
“It’s not about Iran or Al-Jazeera”, he said, referring to the Qatar-based broadcaster.
Baker said 18 destinations were now out of bounds for the airline. But his big rivals from the UAE – Emirates and Etihad – are taking a hit too, he added.
Despite a challenging year that included an electronics ban on flights to the U.S., Qatar Airways has just posted record profit of $541 million for the year through March, an increase of almost 22%.
“We are now looking to increase our frequencies to markets that we couldn’t operate because we had a capacity shortage”.
“I don’t think there is anything that we need to worry about in the local economy“, he said.
In addition to cutting diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt also halted air, sea and land transport links to Qatar, which relies on imports for most of its food.
“It is actually a travesty of civilized behavior to close airline offices”.
He appealed to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency which administers the Chicago convention that guarantees civil overflights. “One of my relatives told me he was unable to travel to Saudi to attend the funeral of a poet”, he said. Soldiers in an armored pick-up truck looked out over barbed-wire at sprawling dustland separating Qatar from Saudi Arabia. “We were not allowed to give refunds to our passengers”. “ICAO. should heavily get involved, put their weight behind this to declare this an illegal act”.
However, if the situation becomes critical, the Qatari government can liquidate some of its overseas assets and provide the funds to its banking system, much as Saudi Arabia did past year when its banks faced a funding squeeze due to low oil prices, he said.