A view of the skyline of Dubai, the main port city of the United Arab Emirates. The crisis between tiny Qatar and its Arab neighbour is straining the centuries-old cultural and family fabric that binds the energy-rich Gulf states into a common culture, and replacing old taboos with new red lines.Photo: AP
INTERNATIONAL - This comes, according to four different sources.

Foreign firms have become increasingly cautious on their cross border dealings over concerns they could fall foul of the region’s biggest diplomatic crisis in years.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain sent a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in July reassuring him that US companies would not be discriminated against as part of the boycott.

The EU has been given similar “official verbal assurances” by the UAE, the EU Delegation to the UAE said.

In the letter to Tillerson, the four countries said that they valued and intended to maintain their relationships with US companies and that those ties would not be affected by the boycott, according to a source who has seen the letter.

The four Arab states did not immediately respond to questions on the letter.

Tillerson made a four-day visit to the region in July where he met both sides of the dispute and made proposals to help end the crisis.

The four Arab countries cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, suspending air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas and the home to the region’s biggest US military base.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on July 17 that the UAE would not ask foreign companies to choose between doing business with it or Qatar.

That followed comments from UAE Ambassador to Russia Omar Ghobash to Britain’s Guardian newspaper on June 28 that companies could be made to choose as part of a new round of sanctions on Qatar.

Top US companies have large investments in countries on both sides of the dispute. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, signed business deals worth tens of billions of dollars with US companies during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May.

State-owned airlines in the UAE and Qatar are leading customers of US plane maker Boeing, and Doha, which will host the 2022 World Cup, is seeking partners to take part in a huge expansion of its gas production.

Some companies have taken steps to restructure their Middle East operations so that Qatar no longer reports to their regional headquarters, often located in Dubai, in a bid to avoid any conflict. 

- REUTERS