Qatar will not grant visas to its 'enemies', tourism chief says

Comments were the first suggesting Qatar would no longer grant visas to people from Egypt amid the two-year blockade.

    Akbar al-Baker is also the CEO of Qatar Airways [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]
    Akbar al-Baker is also the CEO of Qatar Airways [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]

    Qatar will not grant visas to those it considers "enemies", the secretary general of the National Tourism Council said in reference to Egyptians seeking to enter the country amid an ongoing political rift.

    Speaking at an event to promote a summer tourism campaign, Akbar al-Baker, also the CEO of Qatar Airways, said on Sunday that Qatar would not let Egyptians enter the country to take part in promotions aimed at boosting its tourism industry.

    "The visa will not be open for our enemies - it will be open for our friends," al-Baker said of Egyptians looking to come. "Are visas open for us to go there? No. So why should we open it for them? Everything is reciprocal."

    The comments were the first by a Qatari official since the nearly two-year rift began suggesting Qatar would no longer grant visas to people from Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

    Qatar has not said it would deport Egyptian residents already in the country and the comments did not suggest a policy shift that could endanger their status.

    Many Egyptians say the visa process has been effectively closed to them since 2017, with narrow exceptions made for the immediate family members of residents and for specifically approved events.

    The interior ministry was not immediately available for comment.

    'Open arms'

    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting "terrorism". Doha denies the allegation.

    While citizens from the three Gulf states were recalled to their home countries because of the rift, Egyptians - who make up the largest Arab minority in Qatar - have remained and make up a sizable portion of the tiny but wealthy country's workforce.

    Qatar has a population of 2.7 million but only about 300,000 nationals. A 2017 report by a private consultancy estimated Egyptians at 200,000.

    "When you open your arms to Qatar, Qatar will open its arms even bigger for you. But if you become an adversary of Qatar, then we will also treat you as an adversary," al-Baker said.

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency