Kuwait : In this photograph released by the state-run Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, left, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Sabah, right, walk together on an airport tarmac, on Al Thani’s arrival in Kuwait. Qatar's foreign minister, carrying a handwritten letter from the country's ruling emir arrived in Kuwait amid a diplomatic crisis engulfing his nation. AP/PTI photo(AP7_3_2017_000138B) Image Credit: AP

The political discourse in Qatar changed drastically following the decision of three Gulf Arab states and Egypt to snap diplomatic ties in protest against Doha’s links to terrorist organisations and destabilising moves against some Arab countries. The Qatari media was swift to use some western organisations to raise humanitarian issues that never existed.

Some officials of these dodgy organisations accused Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt of a blockade that violates international law and the Charter of the United Nations. But that is far from the truth. The measures were a boycott, but certainly not a blockade. Because Qatar continues to freely use its seaports and airspace to keep in contact with the rest of the world.

What Saudi Arabia did was to use its sovereign right to self-defence as guaranteed by international law and closed its land borders to protect itself from its neighbour’s destabilisation attempts. The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt too exercised their right to ward off danger by closing their airspace and maritime borders.

The boycott of Qatar is legitimate: It is a measure guaranteed in international law that allows cessation of dealings with states, individuals, bodies and institutions to put pressure on them, or in response to crimes or attacks.

Qatar itself has employed the tool on several occasions in the past. It had called for the boycott of goods from many western countries when cartoons deriding the Prophet (PBUH) surfaced.

It had also used it against countries that resorted to peace and normalisation of relations with Israel towards the end of the 20th century, long before Doha warmed up to Tel Aviv.

According to international law, a boycott is very different from a blockade, which requires adopting a series of compulsory measures. The Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations states in Article 41 that the “Security Council shall decide on measures that do not require the use of armed forces to implement its resolutions and may request the members of the United Nations to apply such measures.

These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

Article 42 states that if the Security Council considers that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of members of the United Nations.”

Qatar clearly knows that boycott is a perfectly legal measure, but chose to resort to deception by claiming it as a blockade. The fact that Qatar’s airlines are still flying and its air traffic remains largely unaffected, according to its own official data, prove that no such blockade exists.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have shown tremendous restraint by refusing to escalate the matter internationally. They believe the matter can be resolved through the good offices of other GCC states. And Kuwait has taken the lead in mediation.

Following its request, the 10-day deadline was extended by 48 hours for Qatar to accept the 13-point list of demands that included delinking support to terror organisations, closure of Al Jazeera television station and downgrading of ties with Iran.

Dr Salem Al Ketbi is an Emirati political analyst, researcher and opinion writer.