- Qataris stockpile food supplies
- UAE and Saudi stop sugar exports to Qatar
- Trucks carrying food halted at border
- Qatari government seeks to reassure citizens (Writes through with comment, detail, background)
By Jonathan Saul and Maha El Dahan – Reuters
LONDON/ABU DHABI, June 5 (Reuters) – A decision by the Arab world’s strongest powers to break off diplomatic ties with Qatar is already hitting food imports into the small Gulf state with reports that Qataris are beginning to stockpile supplies, trade sources say.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut relations with Qatar on Monday over alleged support for Islamists and Iran in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives joined in later – opening up one of the worst rifts in years.
Qatar, which has a population of 2.5 million people, is largely dependent on imports of foodstuffs to meet its needs.
Trade sources, who declined to be named, said the UAE and Saudi Arabia had stopped exports of white sugar to Qatar.
Qatar is dependent on the UAE and Saudi Arabia for its white sugar imports, which are estimated at less than 100,000 tonnes annually. Consumption is traditionally higher during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is currently being observed.
“Supplies of sugar have been stopped and there is no indication when they could resume,” one Middle East based trade source said.
Qatar’s cabinet said earlier on Monday it was still open for trade. “The Council would like to reassure Qatar’s citizens and residents that the government had already taken the necessary measures and precautions to ensure that normal life continues, and that there will be no negative impact caused by the latest measures,” the Qatari government said in a statement.
“In addition, sea ports will continue to be open for trade, and air space will continue to be open for trade, transport and air travel, with the exception of the countries that have closed their borders and air space.”
THOUSANDS OF TRUCKS WITH FOOD STUCK AT BORDER
There were already signs of emerging difficulties. Two Middle East trade sources pointed to thousands of trucks, carrying food supplies, stuck at the border with Saudi Arabia which were unable to cross over into Qatar.
Eva Tobaji, an expat resident in Doha, told Reuters after returning from shopping: “People have stormed into the supermarket hoarding food, especially imported ones … It’s chaos – I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Trade sources pointed to the likelihood of food shortages growing until there was a resolution of the crisis. About 80 percent of Qatar’s food requirements are sourced via bigger Gulf Arab neighbours, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“There will be a crisis for them maybe in the next month or so until they figure out their supply chain,” another Middle East trade source said. “The situation as it now stands is like a siege.”
Saudi Arabia’s Ports Authority notified shipping agents on Monday not to receive vessels carrying Qatari flags or ships that are owned by Qatari companies or individuals.
The move followed a similar step by the UAE port of Fujairah, which issued a notice barring all vessels carrying Qatari flags and any destined for or arriving from Qatari ports.
The world’s no. 1 container shipping line Maersk said on Monday it was still open for business to and from Qatar, adding that it was following developments closely.
Qatar has denounced its diplomatic isolation as based on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for Islamists, as has Saudi Arabia.
Iran, long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move, blamed U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit last month to Riyadh.
Trade sources said it was possible that Qatar could look at other sources of food from Asia and also Iran if the diplomatic crisis was not resolved.
Reza Nourani, chairman of Iran’s Union of Exporters of Agricultural Products, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying that Tehran could export food to Qatar by sea, which could reach the country in 12 hours.
“We can export any kind of agricultural products and food from Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas, Bandar Lengeh and Bushehr,” Nourani told Fars, which is believed to be affiliated to Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara, Celine Aswad and William Maclean in Dubai, Editing by Catherine Evans)
Rania Dorrah, a 38-year-old Egyptian interior designer, said she and her husband were concerned that they would not be able to renew their work visas because of the crisis. Her husband, an accountant, tried to renew his visa Monday but was told to come back later, “because everything has been halted for now,” she said.
“What I fear the most now is to return to Egypt without notice, and this means returning back to nothing,” she said. “Absolutely nothing.”
Dan Lamothe in Sydney, Heba Farouk Mahfouz in Cairo, and Brian Murphy and Anne Gearan in Washington contributed to this report.
Qatar is backed by a massive global war chest
Qatar is a small country with a big war chest.
The Gulf nation has landed at the center of a major diplomatic crisis after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic relations on Monday.
Stocks dropped over 7% in Doha on Monday as investors fretted over the spat. But Qatar itself is backed by a portfolio that spans everything from stakes in Volkswagen () to Tiffany & Co ( ).
The country’s $335 billion sovereign wealth fund has invested more than $30 billion in stocks and billions more in other assets. The fund, called The Qatar Investment Authority, was founded in 2005 to grow the money made off the OPEC nation’s natural resources.
Here’s a look at what the major gas producer owns:
In August, the sovereign wealth fund put $622 million toward a stake in Empire State Realty Trust (), which owns and operates the Empire State Building and other prime New York properties.
The fund also owns 8.3% of Brookfield Property, which has prime real estate holdings across the world.
The country and its royal family own a string of trophy assets in London, including the Harrods department store, the Olympic Village and the Shard — western Europe’s tallest building. It also owns parts of the city’s financial district.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund was part of a group of investors that bought a 61% stake in the U.K.’s gas pipe network from National Grid.
In December, Qatar teamed up with commodities group Glencore () to buy a 19.5% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft.
It also owns a 4.6% stake in Royal Dutch Shell ().
Best of the rest
Qatar’s state fund is the third biggest investor in Volkswagen () after the Porsche family and the German state of Lower Saxony. It owns $9 billion stake in the automaker.
The fund holds a 13% stake in Tiffany Co () that is valued at $1.4 billion. It also owns 9% of Glencore and 21% of Siemens ( ).
Qatar was rewarded with a 6% stake in Barclays after coming to its rescue during the global financial crisis. It owns 8% of Credit Suisse ().
‘Qatar “believes such differences between sister countries must be resolved through dialogue.”
‘Qatar wants to give Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah the ability to “proceed and communicate with the parties to the crisis and to try to contain the issue,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said in comments to Qatar-based Al Jazeera television.
‘Kuwait’s emir had an important role in a previous Gulf rift in 2014 and Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim “regards him as a parent and respects his desire to postpone any speech or step until there is a clearer picture of the crisis,” Al Jazeera quoted the foreign minister as saying.
‘Sheikh Mohammed told the channel that the measures taken against Qatar had an “unprecedented impact” on its citizens and on family relations in the Gulf Arab region, but said Doha will not take counter measures. ‘
The Guardian – 6 June 2017 – News headlines and full article
Gulf plunged into diplomatic crisis as countries cut ties with Qatar
Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry said the measures were unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions. As the Qatari stock market tumbled and oil prices rose, it accused its fellow Gulf states of violating its sovereignty.
“The state of Qatar has been subjected to a campaign of lies that have reached the point of complete fabrication,” a statement said. “It reveals a hidden plan to undermine the state of Qatar.”
Egypt’s foreign ministry accused Qatar of taking an “antagonist approach” towards the country and said “all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed”. It gave the Qatari ambassador 48 hours to leave Egypt, and ordered its own chargé d’affaires in Qatar to return to Cairo within 48 hours.
The tiny island nation of Bahrain blamed its decision on Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities, and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain”.
In a sign of Qatar’s growing isolation, Yemen’s internationally backed government – which no longer holds its capital and large portions of the country – joined the move to break relations, as did the Maldives and the government based in eastern Libya