U.A.E. Says Qatar Embargo Stands After Trade Ban Seemed Eased

February 21, 2019, 3:56 AM CST

The United Arab Emirates said a port circular signaling an easing of the almost two-year Saudi-led embargo of Qatar was “misinterpreted” and that a clarification will be issued to ports.

The clarification will address a directive by Abu Dhabi Ports that removed any mention of banning cargo shipments to Qatar, allowing a resumption of trade by third-party shippers. A previous order that barred goods originating from either Qatar or the U.A.E. from being loaded or delivered to either country was canceled by the one-page circular issued on Feb. 12.

The Federal Transport Authority said the embargo on Qatar stands and only it has jurisdiction over the ports, according to a statement on Thursday cited by state-run WAM news agency.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar in 2017, accusing the gas-rich country of maintaining close ties with Iran and supporting terrorism. Qatar denies both charges. The U.S. has increased pressure on Saudi Arabia to end the rift and unite the region against Iran.

Qatari-flagged and owned vessels are still prohibited from docking in Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E.’s capital. Vessels from the U.A.E. “aren’t allowed to call on Qatari ports,” according to the Abu Dhabi Ports statement on Feb. 12.

Spokesmen for the governments of Qatar and officials at other U.A.E. ports didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Qatar, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, absorbed the shock of the embargo. The boycott forced the country to shift its shipping routes to Kuwait and Oman, and buy more goods from Iran and Turkey. Yet Qatar’s economy is expanding faster than those of most of its neighbors, and its stock market was the world’s second-best performer last year.

After shoring up ties in Western capitals and spending billions on weapons, Qatar plans to retool its economy to attract foreign investment and build a financial hub for companies in Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan. It banned the import of goods from the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia in May.

— With assistance by Matthew Martin, Verity Ratcliffe, and Mahmoud Habboush

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