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June 6, 2017

Gulf Diplomatic Crisis: 
What Does It Mean for Travelers?

On June 5th, several countries decided to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, including air, land and sea links to the country beginning Tuesday, June 6th. The coordinated diplomatic move was made by six Gulf States (Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Saudi Arabia) along with the Maldives. It is the worst diplomatic crisis in decades for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). 

This on-going diplomatic crisis follows accusations made by several Gulf States that Qatar is supporting Iran and aiding terrorism cells in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. These accusations were made after the Qatari News Agency (QNA) published quotes of a speech supposedly given by Qatar's Emir in which he expressed support for Hamas, complimented Iran, and defined Qatar’s relationship with U.S. President as tensed. Qatari officials have argued the QNA website was hacked and that these statements were fabricated.

What It Means for Travelers

For travelers flying between those countries, the effect of this crisis was immediate. After Qatar Airways stopped flights going to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on Monday at noon, other airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, FlyDubai, Gulf Air, Egyptair and Air Arabia have suspended their flights in and out of Qatar beginning early Tuesday morning. Egypt also declared it will close their airspace to all Qatar Airways aircrafts. 

The effect of the diplomatic crisis can be seen on FlightTracker’s map of the region, showing Qatar Airways aircrafts flying over a small and defined corridor and avoiding the countries involved in the conflict. 

Passengers on direct flights are not the only ones being affected; travelers in transit too won’t be able to do parts of their trip (e.g. flight from Singapore to Cairo via Doha). According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), those passengers must be rebooked onto other routes to get to their final destination. At the moment, all airlines seem to be offering the same options to travelers; either a full refund or free rebooking onto another alternative or a later flight.

On land, this crisis also impacts the flow and movement of population. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have ordered their respective citizens not to enter Qatar or to leave the country if they are currently in Qatar. They have also banned Qatari citizens from their territories, giving them 14 days to leave. Bahrain and Egypt are giving Qatari diplomatic missions 48 hour to leave the countries.

With regards to Assist America’s operations, Vice President of Operations, Kip Gibbs reassures members that "while subject to local rules and regulations, Assist America is capable and ready as always to provide our emergency services in the face of these current events regarding Qatar." 

Travel Advice 

If traveling to one of the countries impacted by this on-going diplomatic crisis: 

- Use extra caution and maintain a high level of personal security awareness.
- Regularly review the status of transport services and entry requirements, in and out of Qatar.
- Ensure that you have adequate supplies as Qatar mainly relies on imports for food and other supplies. 
- Contact your country’s embassy or consulate in Qatar for consular assistance.

As of Tuesday, June 6th, the crisis is still on-going with major air travel disruptions and there is no known end-date to the conflict. Kuwait, another member of the GCC, is working as a liaison between the countries to find a resolution to this diplomatic row. 

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More Info

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The content of this edition of AssistAlert is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace further investigation or personal observations. If you are planning travel, or are traveling in or proximate to the locations identified in this newsletter, you are encouraged to contact SecurAssist for additional information.

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