Qatar in crisis as more countries sever ties

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The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attends the final session of the South American-Arab Countries summit, in Riyadh November 11, 2015. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo)
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Saudi King Salman (C) walks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, during a welcoming ceremony upon Hamad al-Thani's arrival to attend the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, in Riyadh November 10, 2015. (Reuters)
Updated 06 June 2017
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Qatar in crisis as more countries sever ties

JEDDAH: Several Arab and Islamic countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over Doha’s alleged support for extremist groups.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were the first to announce they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar and announced plans to cut air and sea traffic to the peninsular country.
In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Arabia said Qatari troops would be pulled from the ongoing war in Yemen. Qatar is part of the Arab Coalition backing the UN-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in its war with Iran-backed Houthis and their allies.
SPA said Saudi Arabia has taken this “crucial action as a result of serious violations by the authorities in Doha, privately and publicly, over the past years to encourage dissent and sectarianism in the Kingdom.”
Riyadh accused Qatar of “backing terrorist groups in the province of Qatif, Saudi Arabia, and in the Kingdom of Bahrain and the financing and the adoption of harboring extremists who seek to strike the stability and unity of the nation at home and abroad.”
It specifically mentioned Qatar’s alleged support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh extremists.
Riyadh also accused Qatari media of trying to undermine the Saudi-led coalition in its fight against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah "expressed his wish" that Qatari ruler "work on easing tensions and refrain from taking any decision that might cause escalation", the Kuwait state news agency Kuna said, as Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, an adviser to the Saudi king, arrived in Kuwait.

Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.
Egypt announced the closure of its airspace and seaports to all Qatari transportation to protect its national security, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Egypt accused Qatar of supporting "terrorist" organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's state news agency reported.
The United Arab Emirates accused its Gulf Arab neighbor of supporting extremism and undermining regional stability, state news agency WAM reported.
The Emirates cut ties and gave diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, citing their "support, funding and embrace of terrorist, extremist and sectarian organizations," WAM said.
Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yemen's internationally recognised government, which also severed ties with Qatar, accused it of working with its enemies in the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported.
"Qatar's practices of dealing with the (Houthi) coup militas and supporting extremist groups became clear," the government said in a statement.
Libya’s eastern-based government has followed regional allies in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, its foreign minister, Mohamed Dayri, said on Monday.
The Maldives also followed suit in severing diplomatic ties with Qatar. "The Maldives took the decision because of its firm opposition to activities that encourage terrorism and extremism," the government of the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago nation said in a statement.
Qatar denounces 'unjustified' move
Qatar on Monday criticised the decisions of three Gulf states to sever ties with it, saying they were “unjustified” and aimed to put Doha under political “guardianship.”
“The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to the unprecedented steps taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Crisis not to impact fight against terrorism
Speaking in Sydney, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not expect the announcement to have "any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism."
He encouraged Qatar and its neighbours to "sit down together", adding that Washington was ready for "any role that we can play" in helping to overcome divisions.
Amid the rift, Iran blamed the regional crisis on the US President’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Turkey calls for dialogue
Turkey called for dialogue and said it was ready to help defuse the row between Qatar and Arab nations that accuse Doha of supporting extremism.
“It’s a development that really saddened all of us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters. “There could be problems between the countries but dialogue must prevail in all circumstances,” he said.
Iran blames US
The head of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy Alaeddin Boroujerdi says Washington has always made it a policy to establish a rift among Muslim countries. He says: “Intervention of foreign countries, especially the United States, cannot be the solution to regional problems.”
Russia hopes for 'stability and peace'
Commenting on the decision by a number of Arab and Islamic nations, the Kremlin said on Monday that it is in Russia’s interest to have a “stable and peaceful” situation in the Gulf.
Crisis not to impact India
India’s Foreign Affairs Minister said that India will not be impacted by some Gulf countries cutting off diplomatic ties with Qatar.
“There is no challenge arising out of this for us. This is an internal matter of GCC (Gulf Coordination Council). Our only concern is about Indians there. We are trying to find out if any Indians are stuck there,” Sushma Swarai told reporters.
Qatar-bound flights halted
Meanwhile, several airlines have declared suspension of all Qatar-bound flights starting from Tuesday morning until further notice.
Saudi Arabian Airlines, locally known as Saudia, UAE carriers Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia all announced  they would suspend flights to Doha amid the diplomatic rift. Egypt later announced it will suspend air links with Qatar as well.
Qatar Airways, too, said on its official website that it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia.
The decision comes after Qatar alleged in late May that hackers took over the site of its state-run news agency and published what it called fake comments made by the ruling emir about Iran and Israel. Its Gulf Arab neighbors responded by blocking Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

– With input from AP and Reuters


Iranian bread permanent guest at Kuwaiti tables

For decades, Taftoon bread has been a staple of Kuwaiti dinning tables. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019
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Iranian bread permanent guest at Kuwaiti tables

  • Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other

KUWAIT CITY: Khalil Kamal makes sure he regularly visits Kuwait’s popular Souq Al-Mubarakiya, where he enjoys his favorite kebab meal with onion, rocket and freshly baked Iranian bread.
The smell of the bread wafts through the market as it bakes in a traditional oven at the Al-Walimah restaurant in downtown Kuwait City.
The restaurant’s Iranian baker takes one of the many dough balls lined up in front of him and spreads it over a cushion, using the pad to stick the dough against the inside wall of the clay oven.
Once ready, he uses a long stick to reach in and pull out a steaming rounded loaf, served piping hot to customers.
For decades, Iranian bread — known as taftoon — has been a staple of Kuwaiti breakfast, lunch and dinner tables.
“Iranian bread is the only bread we’ve known since we were born,” 60-year-old Kamal told AFP.
Hassan Abdullah Zachriaa, a Kuwaiti of Iranian origin, opened Al-Walimah in 1996. Its tables are spread across a courtyard, surrounded by wooden columns and entryways.
Zachriaa, in his 70s, said the restaurant puts out between 400 and 500 loaves of Iranian bread a day.
“The big turnout in Kuwait for Iranian bread stems from the fact that for decades, our mothers used to make it at home,” he told AFP.
“We then started to buy it from bakeries and stand in lines to get it fresh and hot in the morning, noon and evening.”
The flat bread is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait such as Al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice, Al-Karaeen, cooked sheep feet, classic chickpea plates, or beans and cooked fish.
Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Taftoon is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait such as Al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice.

• Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.

• The bread has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other.

• Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100.

Derbas Hussein Al-Zoabi, 81, a customer at Al-Walimah, said many Kuwaitis were raised on Iranian bread.
“Since childhood, Iranians baked bread for us ... and we used to eat it in the morning with milk and ghee” — clarified butter.
Other than at street markets, Kuwaitis can buy Iranian bread from co-ops, where people line up in the early hours of the morning and again in the evening to get the freshly baked goods.
Some bakeries even have designated segregated entryways for men and women.
Some Kuwaitis customise their orders with spreads of sesame, thyme and dates, and many come prepared with cloth bags to keep the bread as fresh as possible on the trip home.
Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100, according to deputy chief of the Union Co-operative Society Khaled Al-Otaibi.
“These bakeries produce 2 million loaves of bread a day to meet the needs of Kuwaitis and residents,” he told AFP.
“They receive fuel and flour at a subsidised price so that bread is available for not more than 20 fils (less than seven cents).”
The price however can go to up to 50 fils depending on the amount and type of additives, including sesame and fennel.
Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other.