The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf nation Qatar threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy toward it with up to 15 years in prison, and barring entry to Qataris.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also told reporters there would be more curbs if necessary and said Qatar needed to make iron-clad commitments to change what critics say is a policy on funding militants.
Efforts to defuse the regional crisis — triggered on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over alleged support for Muslim militant groups and Iran — showed no immediate signs of success.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday took sides in the rift, praising the actions against Qatar, but later spoke by telephone with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and stressed the need for Gulf unity.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis also spoke to his Qatari counterpart to express commitment to the Gulf region’s security.
Qatar hosts 8,000 US military personnel at Al Udeid Air Base, the largest US air base in the Middle East and a launchpad for US-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group.
Qatar’s sudden isolation has led to the country holding talks with Turkey, Iran and others to secure food and water supplies, according to a Qatari official.
UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab TV channel Al-Arabiya reported the crackdown on expressions of sympathy with Qatar.
“Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying.
On top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams (US$136,128), the newspaper said, citing a statement to Arabic-language media.
The UAE’s state-owned Etihad Airways said all travelers holding Qatari passports were prohibited from traveling to or transiting through the emirates on government instructions.
Foreigners residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari residence visa would also not be eligible for visa on arrival in the UAE, Etihad spokesman said in an e-mail.
“This ruling applies to all airlines flying into the UAE,” the spokesman said in the statement.
Those breaking ties with Qatar are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the Maldives, Mauritania and Libya’s eastern-based government. Jordan has downgraded its diplomatic representation and revoked the license of Doha-based TV channel al Jazeera.
Qataris were loading up on supplies in supermarkets, fearing shortages.
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