The Suez Canal Authority says Egypt cannot bar Qatari ships from crossing the vital waterway, although the North African country, along with Saudi Arabia and its allies, has severed ties with Qatar.
Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mohab Mamish made the remarks in a statement on Friday, adding that the authority is abiding by the Egyptian government’s decision to cut relations with Qatar, but international treaties prevent Cairo from blocking the waterway to Qatari vessels.
However, he asserted that Qatari ships would be barred from using Egyptian ports and the canal’s economic zone.
The artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt — one of the world’s busiest water corridors through which about 10 percent of the world’s trade flows — connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. The 193-kilometer waterway, which allows ships to avoid sailing around Africa, is one of Egypt’s top foreign currency earners.
Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), severed ties with Qatar on June 5, officially accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism” and destabilizing the Middle East, allegations that Qatar says are unjustified and stem from false claims and assumptions.
In their apparent bid to win more support from the US and Israel, the Arab countries have suspended all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, expelled its diplomats and ordered Qatari citizens to leave their countries.
The four Arab states, dubbed as siege countries, later wanted Qatar to abide by a 13-point demand list if it wanted the crippling blockade to be lifted. The defiant Doha government has strongly rejected the so-called demands, calling them “unrealistic, unreasonable and unacceptable.”
Earlier in the day, the four countries issued two statements, one in Cairo and one in Jeddah, saying the Qatari leaders’ refusal to abide by the demands “reflects the extent to which they are linked to terrorism and its continued attempt to sabotage, undermine security and stability.” The statement also threatened Doha with further sanctions.
Qatar, according to a statement attributed to a senior Foreign Ministry source, expressed regret over the contents of the statements, which it said included “false accusations” against Doha.
UK foreign secretary in shuttle diplomacy between Arab states
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson started his Middle East tour to meet senior representatives from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait, a key mediator from the beginning of the row, in a bid to heal the unprecedented rift between the Arab countries.
Johnson, who met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Friday, plans to travel to Qatar and Kuwait in the coming days.