Tuesday, 14 January, 2020

Iran offers food to Qatar, as Saudi Arabia cuts food supply to Doha during ‘Ramadan’

Trucks carrying food for Qatar are now lining up across the border in Saudi Arabia, unable to enter the country amid a diplomatic row between it and Arab nations, Al Jazeera has reported. Qatar relies on food trucked in from Saudi Arabia across its sole land border.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday it would close its land border to Qatar, part of it cutting diplomatic ties to the country along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism.

Doha News, a local news website in Qatar, reported some citizens and residents of the energy rich country already had begun swarming grocery stores. It said some stores had begun seeing their shelves empty over fears that the crisis could see groceries run out of products.

“Customers could be seen piling their carts high with supplies of milk, water, rice and eggs at several popular grocery stores today,” Doha News reported.

One Doha journalist, Zab Mustefa, tweeted a picture of a number of empty supermarket shelves on Monday, apparently as a result of the border closure.

Meanwhile, an Iranian official says his country can export food to Qatar by sea, as Saudi Arabia and three other nations move to isolate the gas-rich nation.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Reza Nourani, chairman of the union of exporters of agricultural products, as saying Monday that food shipments sent from Iran can reach Qatar in 12 hours.

Meanwhile, because Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the other Persian Gulf States have closed their airspaces to Qatari planes, Iran is allowing Qatari airlines to use Iranian airspace.

An Iranian transportation official said Tuesday that Qatari flights bound to North Africa and Europe that used to cross Saudi, Egyptian or Kuwaiti airspace can now travel over Iran, Iraq and Jordan. Flights to Northern Europe can cross Iran. The official said Iran’s air traffic would increase 20 percent, as would its revenue from fees for use of its airspace.

Programs that track flight paths show that Qatari airplanes have changed their routes. Those headed to Europe are crossing the Persian Gulf into Iranian airspace and then heading north across Iran and Jordan.

The flights most affected are those to Africa, some of which must now cross south of Saudi Arabia. A flight from Doha to Khartoum now takes 2 hours and 20 minutes longer.

A diplomatic rift between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors may cost the countries involved billions of dollars by slowing trade and investment and making it more expensive for the region to borrow money as it grapples with low oil prices.

The Ugly Truth and ABC News contributed to this report

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