Tuesday, May 21, 2019
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Thousands welcome Sheikh Tamim back in show of unity

Qataris and foreigners line up Doha waterfront to greet emir after his first trip abroad since the start of Gulf crisis.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

Thousands of people have gathered in Doha to welcome the emir of Qatar back following his travels in Europe and the UN General Assembly, in a show of unity in the wake of a nearly four-month major diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani returned to the Qatari capital on Sunday after concluding his first foreign trip since the crisis erupted on June 5 when a Saudi-led group of Arab countries cut ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air blockade on it.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of supporting "terrorism", an allegation Doha strongly denies.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis - All the latest updates

The show of unity was also aimed at refuting rumours from other Gulf media outlets that Qataris are looking for a change of leadership.

Sultan Barakat, director of Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute, said it felt "as if half of Doha" was on the street.

"I've never seen anything like it in terms of traffic," he said.

"Publicly, seeing the images today will push them [the blockading countries] to think twice about this particular issue," he added.

"It's been about 110 days or so and there hasn't been any feeling of split in the society and it seems to me that everyone is very much united behind the emir."

Foreign trip

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Sheikh Tamim said that the countries imposing an "unjust blockade" on Qatar are seeking to destabilise a sovereign state.

"I stand before you while my country and my people are subjected to an ongoing and unjust blockade imposed since June 5 by neighbouring countries," he said, asking if this was not the definition of "terrorism".

Earlier, the emir had met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, where he said he is ready to sit at a negotiating table to solve the regional crisis.

Sheikh Tamim also held discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, who called on the blockading countries to lift the embargo on Qatar "as soon as possible".

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