Catarrhdiff to Qatar

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Among dignitaries who welcomed Qatar Airways:   Roger Lewis (Chairman of Cardiff Airport) Alun Cairns (Welsh Secretary) and Carwyn Jones (First Minister)

In all the hoopla surrounding the launch of a direct flight from Cardiff to the Middle East it has been conveniently forgotten that Qatar has pariah status among some of its neighbours, stands accused of supporting terrorism, and has embarked on a controversial multi-million dollar ‘charm offensive’.

In July it was reported that the tiny oil-and gas-rich Gulf state had been cut off by some of its powerful Arab neighbours over its alleged terrorist support.

Qatar refused to comply with demands

Qatar refused to comply with an initial list of 13 demands, saying it would not agree to any measures that threatened its sovereignty or violated international law.

The emirate was told by its neighbours that they wanted it to accept six broad principles on combating extremism and terrorism.

Some states do not like tiny Qatar

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, severed relations with Qatar on June 5.

They also gave Qatari citizens 14 days to leave their territory and banned their own citizens from travelling to, or residing in, Qatar.

Egypt also cut diplomatic ties, but did not impose restrictions on its 180,000 citizens living in Qatar.

Cardiff flies into a storm of controversy

Yemen, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government later followed suit.

In addition, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft, and said foreign airlines would have to seek permission for overflights to and from Qatar.

Qatar does support the Muslim Brotherhood…

One source of contention is Qatar’s support for Islamist groups.

Qatar acknowledges that it has provided assistance to some, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but denies aiding militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State (IS).

The other key issue is Qatar’s relations with Iran, with which it shares the world’s largest gas field.

… but Qatar denies supporting groups linked to IS

But the tide may be turning.

Over the past year, the Emir in Qatar has spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists and flying influential American power brokers to the state to win over President Trump’s administration.

Yet apparently ignoring all this unfortunate background, the flight to Qatar’s capital Doha from Cardiff was welcomed with open arms.

Roger Lewis – ‘transformational’

Cardiff Airport’s chairman, Roger Lewis, said:  “This is a pivotal moment for Cardiff Airport, for Wales and the South West of England.

“The far reaching consequences of this service for passengers and businesses will be transformational.”

Carwyn Jones has ‘interesting’ meeting with Qatari

On Twitter the First Minister of Wales (FMW), Carwyn Jones, said:  “Interesting meeting with Qatar Investment Authority to explore investment opportunities arising from new Doha – Wales link”.

There is even now talk of Qatar Airways building a five-star hotel in Cardiff.

In interviews, Mr Jones stated:  “We would like to work with his excellency (Akbar Al Baker the Chief Executive of Qatar Airways) to move this project forward.

“We know that the city doesn’t have enough capacity, particularly when major events come here and hosting all the people that want to stay here like for last year’s UEFA Champions Finals.”

There is though enough capacity to welcome an airline from a controversial country which is trying to restore its global reputation.

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