Qatar emir to visit Latin America to seek allies amid blockade

Qatar‘s emir is scheduled to tour a number of Latin American countries as Doha seeks new alliances in the face of the Gulf blockade.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani will begin his tour of Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay on Monday, the emirate’s official news agency QNA said on Saturday, without specifying the duration of the trip.

The emir is expected to meet the presidents of these nations to “discuss ways of strengthening relations and bilateral cooperation in various fields”.

Doha has been working on building new alliances ever since a diplomatic crisis broke out in June 2017, pitting it against a regional bloc led by Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah al-Athbah, editor-in-chief of Doha-based Al-Arab newspaper, said Qatar seeks to bolster its economic ties with Latin America as part of its 2030 vision, which aims to create a sustainable and modern Qatar in the next 10 years.

“Qatar wants to diversify its economic ties around the globe and at the same time, increase its soft power outreach to other countries,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The visit shows that Qatar is not stuck in one corner of the world,” he added.

“The emir’s trip should be seen in the context of similar visits he made to various countries in Africa and Asia last year,” said Dr Mahjoob Zweiri, director of Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University.

“It is aimed at diversifying partners and opportunities,” he said.

Gulf blockade

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a sweeping embargo on the gas-rich emirate, sparking the worst rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The four countries severed all diplomatic and trade ties, accusing Qatar of seeking closer ties with regional rival Iran and “supporting terrorism” – a charge Doha vehemently denies.

Earlier this week, at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said the blockade on Qatar has harmed the reputation of the GCC countries.

The GCC is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On Friday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the Gulf crisis remains at a “stalemate”, adding that the GCC is currently in a “paralysis”.

His statements followed a US-backed meeting between foreign ministers of the six GCC states , Egypt and Jordan in New York – the first of its kind since the Gulf blockade.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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