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Lawyers refute Qatar blockade claims

Measure to close airspace, ports is legally sound sovereign decision

Gulf News

Dubai: Lawyers in Bahrain have refuted claims that a blockade has been imposed on Qatar by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, arguing that Qatari media was circulating the allegation in a bid to win emotional sympathy for its unacceptable behaviour.

On June 5, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar and closed their airspace and ports to Qatar-registered planes and ships.

Qatari media said that the moves amounted to a blockade of their country, but the four countries insisted that it was a boycott motivated by the need to protect their national security.

Lawyers define “blockade” as means to cut or close off a nation to the outside world.

Under a blockade, people are totally isolated and have no access to the international community.

The Bahraini lawyers said the reality on the ground indicated that talk about a blockade was not credible.

“The boycott decision by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt is a sovereign move that is legally sound and cannot be challenged,” Jameela Al Sayyed, a lawyer member of the Shura (Consultative) Council, said. “All the seaports and airports of Qatar are open and they receive planes, vessels and passengers, and such facts contradict the allegations that some people and the media attempt to promote. The international community is well aware that Qatar was boycotted by some countries as a result of its practices that threatened the sovereignty of its neighbours,” she said.

Al Sayyed, the second deputy chairman of the Shura, said there were blatant contradictions in the statements issued by Qatar.

“Doha on some occasions says that it was affected by the boycott, and yet it rejects assistance from other countries, saying it does not need them.”

Al Sayyed voiced support for the measures taken by Bahrain, saying that the kingdom had for a long time applied the principle of self-restraint.

“However, the dangers are cascading and it was necessary to make a decisive move to stop them. Qatar did not comply with the values of the GCC by not respecting the sovereignty of other countries and by interfering in their domestic affairs. It also broke international laws calling for respecting neighbours and protecting shared interests,” she said in remarks carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

“Qatar should not have allied itself with Iran, a country that the international community considers a sponsor of terrorism.”

Fareed Ghazi, a well-known lawyer, said that the boycott of Qatar aimed primarily at confronting terror organisations and groups that should not have been backed by Qatar.

“The second objective of the boycott is to make Qatar honour its Gulf and Arab pledges not to support or fund terrorism and to reduce the onslaught of its media arms that seek to sow sedition and divisions within the Gulf, Egypt and other countries,” he said.

“The Gulf states are not targeting the people of Qatar who share many common features and are closely associated with the Gulf people in numerous ways. There is no way Gulf states can take any action against their own sons and brothers in Qatar.”

Ghazi said the measures were necessary to help address a situation that has become highly risky for Gulf countries, prompting them to protect their vital interests and to deal uncompromisingly with extremism and terrorism.

Rabab Al Arayyedh, another lawyer, said that countries that boycotted Qatar had their own valid reasons and wanted to preserve their stability and social peace and prevent foreign interference in their domestic affairs.

“The severing of ties was in line with international laws and relations and therefore it was not condemned by any country,” she said. “Boycott is a sovereign right for any country that wants to protect and ensure its security and stability.”

On Wednesday, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa dismissed claims that decisions by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to sever ties with Qatar and to close their airspace and seaports to Doha were a blockade.

“The allegations of a blockade and starvation are null and void and lack credibility,” Shaikh Khalid posted on his Twitter account.

“The measures taken are sovereign steps to protect our security and the safety of our countries.”

He insisted that the measures took into account family relations between the Gulf people.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir denied claims being circulated on behalf of Qatar that a blockade had been imposed around it.

“There is no blockade of Qatar. Qatar is free to go. The ports are open, the airports are open,” Al Jubeir said in Washington after a meeting with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson. “What we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right. The limitation on the use of Saudi airspace is only limited to Qatar Airways or Qatari-owned aircraft, not anybody else.”

Al Jubeir explained the situation further by insisting that Qatar’s seaports were open.

“There is no blockade on them. Qatar can move goods in and out whenever they want. They just cannot use our territorial waters,” he said.