GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL/EGYPT/QATAR (June 5, 2017) – Travel to Qatar restricted, as several countries cut ties

Business travelers may face delays or canceled flights and other restrictions if the diplomatic disputes escalate

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IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? In a signal that Qatar is facing increasing isolation from its neighbors, several countries – Bahrain, Egypt, the temporary Libyan government, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, as well as the Maldives and Mauritius – have severed diplomatic and other ties with Doha, claiming that Qatar sponsors terrorism and threatens to destabilize the region.

What does the change mean? Travelers should anticipate disruptions, as Saudi Arabia has closed air travel and its land and sea borders with the small Gulf nation, and the UAE expelled Qatari diplomats and suspended flights on Etihad, FlyDubai and Emirates Airlines to and from Doha. Qatar Airways has announced it will cease all flights to and from Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will likely ban the airline from its airspace. Egypt closed its seaports and airspace to all Qatari travel. Bahrain expelled Qatari diplomats and ordered their diplomats home.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Companies and individuals conducting business or traveling between Qatar and any of the eight countries, and especially those who commute to Doha from Dubai. Qatari residents and visitors have been given 14 days to leave the UAE, and UAE nationals have been banned from traveling to Qatar (even if transiting).
  • Business impact: Business travelers may face delays or canceled flights, and other restrictions may be imposed if the diplomatic disputes escalate.
  • Next steps: Employers sending individuals to Qatar may need to rearrange business schedules and should contact their BAL professional for alternate planning. For now, it appears that Kuwait and Oman are maintaining their relations with Qatar, and those two countries will likely be the most convenient transit points for travel between Doha and other GCC countries.

Background: The three Gulf countries leading this initiative accuse Qatar of supporting terrorist groups including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry called the accusations “baseless” and said the blockade had “no legitimate justification.”

Qatar has maintained a rocky relationship with its GCC co-members for almost two decades, but the rift has widened in recent months over several issues. Qatar criticized the anti-Iran rhetoric following U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia; soon after the UAE and other GCC countries cut access to media from Doha-based Al Jazeera. Egypt has also accused Doha of meddling in its politics, and last month Qatar began denying visas and visas-on-arrival to Egyptian nationals.

BAL Analysis: The situation is evolving and may change quickly. BAL is following developments and will alert clients to any additional changes or restrictions.  

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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