Soccer, gasoline and bribery allegations: How Qatar-EU relations deteriorated | CNN

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Abu Dhabi, UAE

Because the world’s consideration was targeted on the conclusion of the World Cup in Qatar final week, a political scandal was brewing in Europe with the small gas-rich nation at its heart.

Authorities in Belgium arrested 4 folks on December 9 beneath suspicion of getting obtained items and favors from Qatar as a part of efforts to affect decision-making on the European Parliament.

Politicians and commentators in Europe described the incident as the most important corruption scandal to hit politics on the continent. Lawmakers suspended Qatar’s entry to the European Parliament and placed on maintain laws associated to aviation and visa liberalization.

Doha has strongly denied involvement, warning that the choice to “impose such a discriminatory restriction” on Qatar earlier than the authorized course of has ended may influence cooperation.

The scandal is the most recent dent within the Gulf nation’s relations with European international locations after deep variations over Qatar’s internet hosting of the FIFA World Cup simmered just lately.

Right here’s what it is advisable know concerning the turbulence in Qatari-European relations:

What’s the bribery scandal that has rocked the EU and the way has Qatar reacted?

Belgium’s federal prosecutor stated earlier this month that for 2 years, federal police inspectors “suspected a rustic from the Persian Gulf of influencing financial and political choices of the European Parliament,” in accordance with public broadcaster RTBF.

Of the 4 individuals who have been subsequently arrested, probably the most high-profile particular person is Greek lawmaker Eva Kaili, who was stripped of her position as one of many parliament’s 14 vice presidents on Tuesday.

A lawyer for Kaili’s household, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, informed CNN Tuesday that her place “stays that she is harmless and that she has nothing to do with bribery from Qatar.”

Qatar has hit again, accusing these concerned within the investigation of leaking “inaccurate data.” It has additionally protested being singled out within the investigation earlier than its conclusion.

“Qatar was not the one get together named within the investigation, but our nation has been completely criticized and attacked,” a Qatari diplomat stated in an announcement on Sunday.

The place does Qatar’s relationship with the EU stand right now?

Qatar has largely dominated European headlines this 12 months for 2 causes: Fuel and soccer.

The controversies surrounding its internet hosting of the World Cup have attracted dangerous press in Europe, which Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has described as a “ferocious” marketing campaign towards his nation and questioned “the true causes and motives” behind it.

European states taking part within the event made their positions clear from their capitals in addition to on the soccer pitch and within the stands. German gamers coated their mouths in a pre-match photograph in protest over a ban on sporting rainbow-colored armbands, a deliberate assertion towards Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ guidelines. A German minister wore the “OneLove” armband on the similar sport in defiance of restrictions on LGBTQ symbols.

However criticism of the event within the Western press went past LGBTQ points and the plight of migrant staff in Qatar, prompting regional activists and journalists to accuse Western media of anti-Arab prejudice.

“The cultural rifts which have emerged in Europe in the course of the World Cup will not be particular to Qatar however have an effect on the broader Gulf,” stated Andreas Krieg, an affiliate professor at King’s Faculty London. “What is occurring to Qatar is seen as European privilege, closed-mindedness, Islamophobia and racism.”

Qatar’s position as a possible alternative for Russian vitality provides has additionally been touted in Europe because the continent tries to wean itself off Moscow’s gasoline following its struggle on Ukraine. That might enlarge the impact of any pressure on Qatari-European relationships, stated Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice College’s Baker Institute in Houston, Texas.

“There’s a extra assertive temper in Doha… borne out of a sense that European states greater than ever are seen to be looking for vitality and funding from the Gulf whilst protection over the World Cup has within the view of many throughout the area been deeply offensive in its tone,” he informed CNN.

Qatar, which has the third greatest gasoline reserves on the planet after Russia and Iran, will stand “in solidarity” with Europe amid a gasoline scarcity, Power Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi informed CNN in March. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated earlier this 12 months that Qatar will play a “central position” in his nation’s vitality technique and the Gulf nation signed its first gasoline cope with Berlin final month.

Qatar can also be a significant investor in Europe. It is without doubt one of the greatest property homeowners in the UK and owns trophy belongings in London such because the Harrods division retailer and the Shard skyscraper, in addition to a 20% stake in Heathrow airport. In France, the second-biggest vacation spot for Qatari investments, it has over $26 billion in belongings, and has created about 72,000 jobs.

Is Qatar more likely to retaliate towards the EU as relations take a dive?

Qatar has expressed concern concerning the “wave of assaults” it’s going through in European media.

After information of the bribery scandal broke, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola delivered a scathing assault on the “enemies of democracy” in an tackle to the legislature. She recommended that the bloc was able to sacrifice its burgeoning vitality ties with Qatar in consequence. “We’re Europeans,” she stated. “We’d slightly be chilly than purchased.”

Qatar has been eager to dispel the notion that it will weaponize its huge gasoline reserves. When its neighbors, together with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, imposed a boycott designed to cripple its economic system in 2017, Doha continued to produce the UAE with gasoline. Qatar’s pleasant relations with Iran might be attributed to gasoline diplomacy, too. The 2 nations share the world’s greatest gasoline subject, recognized in Qatar because the North Discipline.

In an announcement to CNN, Qatar famous its place as an vital provider of liquefied pure gasoline (LNG) to Belgium and warned the EU that the continued episode may have an effect on “discussions round international vitality poverty.”

However Qatar may discover different methods to let its grievance with Europe be recognized. After London’s transport authority banned Qatari commercials in protest of its place on LGBTQ points, for instance, Doha started a evaluate of its investments within the metropolis, the Monetary Occasions reported.

Qatar didn’t reply to CNN’s request for remark for this text.

Ulrichsen stated European officers and diplomats have tried to push again towards the negativity of media protection in the course of the World Cup. French President Emmanuel Macron made a really public look on the event, attending the semifinal and ultimate matches. When Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim handed out medals to the event’s Argentinian winners on Sunday, Macron was by his facet.

Krieg stated Qatar’s signing of a gasoline contract with Germany means that it isn’t going to politicize enterprise dealings.

“I believe the present warnings expressed by Qatar are a present of drive and are unlikely going to translate into quid professional quos. Qatar has no custom of taking part in hardball,” stated Krieg. “They are typically accommodating however endurance has run low. And Europeans would do effectively to take Qatari and Gulf considerations into consideration.”

Sweden’s blocking of Turkish man’s extradition “very destructive,” Ankara says

The Swedish Supreme Court docket’s determination to dam the extradition of Turkish journalist Bulent Kenes is a “very destructive” improvement, Turkey’s overseas minister stated Tuesday, as Stockholm seeks Ankara’s approval for it to hitch NATO, Reuters reported. Sweden’s Overseas Ministry stated it was sure to behave in accordance with the courtroom’s ruling.

  • Background: Finland and Sweden each requested to hitch NATO in Might within the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however their bids require the approval of all 30 NATO member states, together with Turkey. In June, Sweden and Finland agreed to take plenty of steps to beat Turkey’s objections, signing a three-way settlement.
  • Why it issues: One in all Turkey’s calls for was that Sweden and Finland extradite suspects it seeks over terrorism-related expenses. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan final month singled out Kenes as an individual Ankara desires extradited from Sweden. Ankara says Kenes is a member of a company that it accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup try.

Russia to offer Iran “superior navy parts” in return for drones – UK official

Russia is to supply Iran with “superior navy parts” in return for 300 Iranian Kamikaze drones it already obtained, UK Protection Secretary Ben Wallace warned Tuesday, including that Tehran has turn out to be “considered one of Russia’s high navy backers.” Wallace didn’t present any additional particulars.

  • Background: On December 9, the White Home sounded recent alarm on the flourishing navy partnership between Iran and Russia, saying the USA would work to “expose and disrupt” the alternate of weapons and know-how between the 2 international locations. Iran has acknowledged that it had despatched Russia “a restricted variety of drones” however earlier than the beginning of the struggle in Ukraine.
  • Why it issues: Western nations have positioned strict restrictions on weapons deliveries to Iran amid fears that its ballistic missile program may endanger regional states and Europe. It’s unclear how the Russian weapons may change the navy stability in Iran’s favor however Wallace stated the transfer undermines Center East and worldwide safety.

Iran’s overseas minister says he spoke to Saudi counterpart at Jordan convention

Iran’s Overseas Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted on Wednesday that he held “pleasant talks” together with his Saudi counterpart on the sidelines of a convention in Jordan yesterday, in what can be the highest-level encounter between officers from the rival states since they minimize ties in 2016, Reuters reported. “My Saudi counterpart assured me of his nation’s willingness to proceed the dialog with Iran,” he tweeted.

  • Background: Saudi Arabia and Iran have been on opposing sides of conflicts throughout the area. Iraq has hosted 5 conferences between Saudi and Iranian officers since final 12 months in a bid to ease tensions, the final of which was in April.
  • Why it issues: Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have ticked larger for the reason that eruption of protests throughout Iran since September, with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) telling Saudi Arabia to manage its media and the Iranian intelligence minister warning Riyadh there was no assure of Tehran persevering with its “strategic endurance.” As Iran’s overseas minister referred to as for dialog in Jordan on Tuesday, Esmail Ghaani, the IRGC chief, referred to Saudi Arabia as “a scum and never value of being an enemy” whereas talking in Tehran.

The UAE expects its economic system to develop 7.6% this 12 months, state information company WAM stated Monday. In distinction, the Worldwide Financial Fund initiatives the worldwide economic system to develop 3.2%. The US economic system in the meantime is anticipated to develop about 1.8%. One of many world’s high oil producers, the UAE benefited from excessive crude costs earlier this 12 months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Regional: #Bisht

The Qatari emir’s inserting of the Arab “bisht” cloak round Argentinian footballing legend Lionel Messi’s shoulders after his workforce gained the World Cup grew to become the topic of an intense on-line debate.

The time period was trending in a number of Arab international locations, and it rapidly grew to become the topic of web memes, with Arabs taking delight in the whole event and significantly the closing ceremony carrying a distinctly Center Japanese taste.

However not everybody shared that pleasure. Critics of the transfer decried it as a publicity stunt on Qatar’s half, saying that the second ought to belong to the profitable gamers, not the hosts. “Grossly indulgent,” Laurie Whitwell, a sports activities journalist, tweeted.

Many Arabs nonetheless felt focused by the controversy, countering that awarding of a bisht was the best mark of bestowing honor and status in Arab tradition.

Sultan Al Musa, a author from Saudi Arabia, suggested that the controversy round Messi’s sporting of the cloak doubtless needed to do with its “Arab connotations,” declaring that different situations of sportsmen sporting cultural gadgets of clothes are thought of indicators of “cultural coexistence.” The publish was retweeted virtually 6,000 occasions.

Conservative Kuwaiti lawmaker Waleed Al Tabtabaie referred to as the bisht gifting and Qatar’s internet hosting of the event because the “pinnacle of creativity” in attempting to reverse what he stated was an try by Hollywood to distort the picture of Arabs and Muslims as backward and violent.

Others shared photos of Argentinian fans shopping for bishts within the markets of Doha as a testomony to their appreciation of the emir’s gesture in direction of Messi.

Supporters light flares and cheer as Morocco's national football team returns home in the capital Rabat, on Tuesday, after their record-breaking World Cup campaign.

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