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Tuesday 19 June 2018

UAE official urges Qatar to give up World Cup to end diplomatic crisis

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties and began a boycott of Qatar in June
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties and began a boycott of Qatar in June

The Qatar diplomatic crisis can end if Doha gives up hosting the 2022 Fifa World Cup, a top Emirati security official has said.

It is the first time someone from the four Arab nations boycotting the country has directly linked the tournament to resolving the months-long dispute.

While Dubai security Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan is often outspoken on Twitter, his tweet on Sunday night on the crisis comes as those opposing Qatar increasingly target the football competition in their criticism.

Qatari officials did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

However, the 2022 tournament's head in Qatar told the Associated Press on Friday that the boycott poses "no risk" to the competition being held.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all cut diplomatic ties and began a boycott of Qatar on June 5, in part over allegations that Doha supports extremists and has overly warm ties to Iran.

Qatar has long denied funding extremists and restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran which makes its citizens incredibly wealthy.

On Sunday night, Lt Gen Khalfan targeted the Fifa tournament in his tweets.

"If the World Cup goes out of Qatar, the crisis in Qatar will end because the crisis was made to break it," he wrote.

He added: "The cost to return is more than what the al-Hamdeen have planned for," referring to Qatar's former ruling emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his son, the current emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Lt Gen Khalfan, who has previously written controversial tweets about Israel and US President Donald Trump, later wrote that Qatar "is no longer our concern", suggesting media in the boycotting countries dial back their coverage of the dispute.

As the crisis has dragged on despite mediation by Kuwait, the US and European nations, Qatar's opponents have begun targeting its hosting of the Fifa tournament. They have pointed to allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar's winning bid, as well as the conditions that labourers working in Qatar face in building infrastructure for the games.

While Fifa ethics investigators found that the Qataris used a full range of lavishly funded state and sports agencies to win the 2010 vote to host the tournament, authorities concluded there was no "evidence of any improper activity by the bid team".

When Qatar's sole land border with Saudi Arabia was closed and sea traffic cut off by the boycott, World Cup organisers were forced to instigate a "Plan B", including bringing in supplies from Turkey.

Hassan al-Thawadi, Qatar World Cup supreme committee secretary-general, told the AP on Friday that the project remained on time despite that.

"There might have been some minimal increase in terms of establishing alternative supply chains but these have been absorbed very, very quickly and been normalised as these supply chains have been put in place," he said.


Press Association

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