Qatar: Seeking ways out of isolation

A picture shows the Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar’s principal site for production of liquefied natural gas and gas-to-liquid, administrated by Qatar Petroleum, some 80km north of the capital Doha Feb 6, 2017. (AFP pic)

DOHA: They accuse Doha of supporting “terrorists” and of being too close to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

Qatar says its Gulf neighbours want to put it under their “guardianship” and strangle it economically.

The restrictions imposed on Qatar, which relies on imports, include shutting down its air, maritime and land links.

Defence boost

Over the next months Qatar signs a series of multi-billion dollar deals with foreign powers to boost its defence.

The Pentagon announces a US$12 billion (RM50 billion) deal with Qatar for the purchase of US-made F-15 fighter jets on Jun 14.

The emirate hosts a major US air base, home to the headquarters of Centcom ― the regional command which leads operations against the jihadist Islamic State group.

On August 1 Qatar confirms a US$5.9 billion order for seven warships from Italy.

In March 2018 Qatar says it will buy 28 military NH90 helicopters from the European NHI consortium.

The following month the US says it has approved a deal to sell Qatar US$300 million in guided missiles.

In February 2019 Qatar takes delivery of the first of 36 French-built Rafale fighter jets.

A month later Doha says its arms purchases are not the concern of Saudi Arabia.

“It is none of their business,” says the Qatari foreign minister, adding that a possible purchase of the sophisticated Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system was “a sovereign decision”.

Beefs up economy

In July 2017 Total and Qatar Petroleum unveil a 25-year joint venture to develop the vast offshore Al-Shaheen oil field on Qatar’s eastern coast.

In September Qatar inaugurates a new US$7.4 billion port that it says will help to “break the shackles” of the boycott.

The Hamad Port on Qatar’s southeastern coast is a major hub for imports to the kingdom.

In January 2018 Qatar approves legislation allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership in most sectors of its economy in a bid to boost non-energy revenues.

In March Qatar Petroleum awards a contract to the Japanese firm Chiyoda Corporation to develop a huge gas field.

Foreign friends

Since the start of the crisis Doha has increasingly turned towards Iran and Turkey, particularly for food imports.

In August 2017 Qatar announces it would restore full diplomatic relations with Iran and reinstate an ambassador, having removed its representative in 2016 following attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy.

In January 2018 Qatar signs a memorandum of understanding with Oman on the development of bilateral investment and trade.

In August Brazilian footballer Neymar arrives in Paris to join his new club Paris Saint-Germain owned by Qatar, which put up US$257 million for his transfer.

And in a bid to stimulate tourism, Doha scraps entry visas for citizens from 80 countries, and announces new rules for those wishing to become permanent residents.

Qatar is also preparing to host football’s FIFA World Cup in 2022, although a move to increase the number of competing teams to 48 from 32 was scrapped in May 2019.