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World Cup at risk in Al Jazeera, Qatar row?

June 6, 2017

By Chris Forrester

The diplomatic row in the Gulf states has escalated, with Al Jazeera’s news bureau in the Saudi Arabian capital being closed. There are also widespread reports that football’s FIFA governing body has held talks with Qatar over the 2022 World Cup scheduled to be held in the country. FIFA has made no comment.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5th. Yemen, Libya and the Maldives have joined in the action. Land and sea borders, and airlinks with Qatar have been closed, and ambassadors recalled. Egypt has barred all flights from Qatar from using its airspace.

Turkey’s President Erdogan has reportedly spoken by phone to political leaders in an attempt to lower tensions, and Kuwait has called for restraint from both sides.

Al Jazeera is headquartered in Doha, Qatar’s capital city, and CNN reported on Monday evening that the global news channel could end up being a pawn in the arguments between the various parties. “Big Gulf powers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will now be in a position to demand concessions from Qatar in return for restoration of diplomatic and economic ties. Analysts said that one of their demands could be the closure of Al Jazeera,” said CNN’s report. “Qatar’s Emir first gesture of good will likely be the shutting of Al Jazeera TV network entirely, which could happen in months if not weeks,” Sultan Al Qassemi, a prominent regional commentator, said in a tweet, and quoted by CNN.

A report on Al Jazeera in 2002 which criticised the Saudi royal family saw the Saudi ambassador recalled from Qatar, and diplomatic ties not restored for five years.

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