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UAE withdraws WTO trade complaint against Qatar

Qatar has been largely unaffected by the blockade [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2019

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A UAE complaint against Qatar has been withdrawn, Abu Dhabi confirmed.

The UAE announced on Thursday it had withdrawn a complaint it made to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) accusing Qatar of imposing discriminatory trade restrictions on its goods.

"Qatar withdrew the measures in question, in order to address the claims" which led Abu Dhabi to discontinue its action against Doha, the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement.

The UAE, whose complaint was referred to a WTO dispute resolution panel in May, has enforced a complete economic embargo of Qatar along with Saudi Arabia and other regional allies since June 2017.

The Saudi-led bloc, which also includes Bahrain and Egypt, accuses Doha of supporting Islamist movements and backing Iran, a claim Qatar rejects.

The UAE previously said the measures it challenged "appear to be inconsistent" with WTO agreements.

"Qatar's discriminatory measures against goods... originating from the United Arab Emirates, imposed in May and June 2018, violated Qatar's obligations and commitments as a member of the WTO," added the Emirati statement.

"As a result, the UAE put forward a request for the formation of a WTO dispute settlement panel on January 28, 2019, against Qatar, to seek the withdrawal of the discriminatory measures."

Abu Dhabi made its initial complaint to the WTO in January.

Since 2017, the UAE along with Saudi Arabia and its allies have hit Qatar with bans on shipping, trade, direct flights, overflight and land crossings.

In June 2018, the dispute moved to the UN's top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, where Qatar accused the UAE of racial discrimination and human rights abuses against its citizens in the Emirates.

The court ordered the UAE in July to protect the rights of its Qatari residents, and to put an end to measures that would stop Qatari students completing their studies.

The UAE in May 2019 accused Qatar before the ICJ of "aggravating" the two-year-old crisis and of "false accusations".

The Saudi-led bloc have demanded Doha accepts a list of 13 conditions, including shutting Al Jazeera and The New Arab, to open a dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Mediation efforts, mainly led by the emir of fellow Gulf state Kuwait, have so far failed to break the deadlock.

While the crisis has shaken the politics of the region, it has also had serious impact on the lives of ordinary civilians on the ground.

A report published last month revealed that the blockade had separated families, disrupted imports, including medical resources and construction materials, among other obstacles for Qatar.

In January, the UN's human rights office accused the four countries of orchestrating a hate campaign against Qatar, which included threats to kill the country's emir. 

But more than two years after the blockade,Qatar, which has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes due to its natural resources, has been largely unaffected by the blockade, opening up other avenues of income to offset the blockade’s impact.

Last week reports confirmed the Maldives is working to restore relations with Qatar after they were severed at the start of a Saudi-led diplomatic and economic blockade of the Gulf state.

Earlier this year, Jordan officially restored relations with Qatar after two years of diplomatic rupture that began at the start of the blockade.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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