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Four Qatari Sailors Released After One Week in UAE Custody

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File image courtesy Royal Navy

By The Maritime Executive 05-06-2019 04:44:51

The United Arab Emirates has released a Qatari naval vessel and four sailors who were on board when Qatari forces detained it last week.

According to a statement from the UAE's foreign ministry, the Qatari vessel entered UAE territorial waters and was seized last Tuesday. The four sailors held in connection with the incident were First Lieutenant Mohammed Hassem Al Heil and Lance Corporal Saeed Nasser Al Marri, both Qatari nationals, Lance Corporal Mohammed Riyad Al Beltaji, a Palestinian national, and Private Fayez Talkoum, an Indian national.

Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the boat was conducting routine operations in Qatari territorial waters when it suffered an unspecified "technical fault." It then drifted unintentionally into Emirati waters, where it was seized, the ministry said. 

Qatar said that it has been talking with the UAE through diplomatic channels and through "friendly and sister countries" to ensure that the sailors were safe and unharmed. It confirmed that all four personnel and the boat have safely returned.

Ongoing embargo

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar in retaliation for Doha's alleged support for terrorism - a charge that the Qatari government denies. The Muslim Brotherhood, the popular Islamist group that the Saudi government once welcomed but now shuns, has a strong presence in Qatar; Riyadh views the Brotherhood as an existential threat, and its status is at the center of the dispute. 

The four participants in the embargo imposed a range of shipping sanctions on Qatari vessels and cargoes. As the UAE port of Jebel Ali is a major regional hub for containerized freight, Qatar had to make alternate arrangements for import and export logistics, including new routes to and from Oman. 

In February, the UAE eased the ban on Qatari shipping: Qatari-origin cargoes can now enter the UAE's ports and vice versa. However, Qatari-owned or -flagged vessels are still banned from the Emirates, and the UAE's foreign ministry is still officially committed to the embargo.