Qatar files complaint with WTO over Gulf trade blockade


Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization on Monday to challenge a trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, the director of Qatar's WTO office Ali Alwaleed al-Thani told Reuters.

Al Jazeera news said that Riyadh refused to guarantee the safety for some 20,000 registered Qatari pilgrims, forcing Qatar to suspend registration.

The televised news conference in Manama comes more than one month after the Saudi-led bloc cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the country.

Saudi Arabia has escalated its feud with Qatar by accusing the fellow oil-rich, majority-Sunni Muslim monarchy of trying to internationalize Islamic holy sites.

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The minister noted that this positive step taken by Qatar clearly demonstrates to all member countries of the WTO the level of transparency exhibited by Qatar through requesting formal and transparent dialogue and consultations with the siege countries in order to inform them of violations they have committed.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have been enforcing an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar since June 5, saying the Gulf country supports terrorism.

"The four countries have expressed their readiness for dialogue with Qatar on the condition that Qatar announces its honest willingness to stop supporting and financing terrorism and extremism and spreading hate speech and incitement, while committing to non-interference in other countries' domestic affairs, as well as carrying out the 13 fair demands that would ensure the general welfare and stability of the region and the world", the statement read.

He lauded the "special strategic relationship" between Qatar and Turkey, recalling that their 2015 military agreement "can't be annulled only because some countries chose to announce a blockade of Qatar".

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Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who has continually fought against Saudi Arabia's allegations and the boycott of his country, denies that Qatar had asked to alter custodial rights of Saudi Arabian holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

"The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar on condition it announces its honest desire to stop supporting and funding terrorism. and implements the 13 demands that ensure peace and stability in the region and world", said Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa.

Al-Jubair warned that "any closer ties between Qatar and Iran would only invite more troubles for Qatar".

"We are exhausted of responding to false information and stories invented from nothing", al-Thani told Doha based news channel Al Jazeera.

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Riyadh severed diplomatic relations past year after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia in January 2016.