Qatar has filed a legal complaint with the World Trade Organization challenging the trade boycott initiated by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates.
The complaint comes about two months after the Saudi-led bloc cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar.
The Gulf region is in the midst of one of its worst diplomatic crises.
Tensions have long existed between Qatar and its neighbors. Saudi Arabia has especially been irked by the seemingly friendly equation shared by Qatar and Iran.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017. The countries alleged that Qatar sponsors terrorist outfits – a charge that Qatar has denied. As a result of the impasse, Qatar’s sea links, air links and road links have been cut off.
The Saudi-bloc has put forth a set of six principles for Qatar to comply with. This includes making a commitment to fight terrorism. Qatar, has not directly responded to these principles but it has said that it was willing to enter negotiations. Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has noted that any discussions should respect Qatar’s sovereignty. It has also said that no negotiations can take place unless the blockade is lifted.
Neither party has set a deadline to enter any form of negotiations.
The complaint lodged by Qatar is reportedly wide-ranging and specifically targets each Saudi, Bahrain and UAE. The complaint against UAE and Saudi Arabia are said to be eight pages long and the one against Bahrain is six pages.
Qatar's WTO office Ali Alwaleed al-Thani told Reuters, “We've given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result. We have always called for dialogue, for negotiations, and this is part of our strategy to talk to the members concerned and to gain more information on these measures, the legality of these measures, and to find a solution to resolve the dispute.”
By “requesting consultations”, Qatar has initiated the first step in a possible trade dispute between the countries. The boycotting countries will now have a sixty-day deadline to settle the dispute or face litigation at WTO.
The Saudi-bloc had previously told WTO that they would justify their actions by citing security concerns.
Our assessment is that Qatar is feeling the pain of the embargo. There has been a steep increase in the prices of food and other commodities which is affecting the way people live. By referring the matter to the WTO, Qatar would expect an intervention from the global body. We believe it is a clever strategy by Qatar to bring Saudi and the other countries to the negotiating table or face litigation.