Wednesday, June 14, 2017

{UAH} Espanol / English Saudi accused of blackmailing African states with Hajj visas

Saudi accused of blackmailing African states with Hajj visas

Pilgrims during Hajj in Mecca [File photo]
Pilgrims during Hajj in Mecca [File photo]
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Saudi Arabia has been accused of making threats to African countries that have refused to support the blockade against Qatar, including veiled threats to deny Hajj visas to African Muslims, French newspaper Le Monde reported.

Riyadh has led a campaign to influence African states to break diplomatic relations with Doha. Seven countries have already yielded but a number of African leaders have refused to support the siege on Qatar. In an attempt to coerce countries refusing to join the blockade, Saudi Arabia has been accused of resorting to coercion and blackmail.

According to the paper, Riyadh was using veiled threats, including complicating the visa process for countries who refused to support the blockade.

African states with a large Muslim population have come under severe pressure to support the siege since it started last week. Many African states have mosques and institutions financed by Riyadh.

Read: What will Saudi Arabia lose after the Gulf earthquake calms down?

Six African countries (Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, Egypt and the Comoros) have recalled their ambassador from Doha. Others, including Djibouti whose border dispute with Eritrea is being mediated by Qatar, preferred to take a less drastic measure to avoid a future backlash.

Riyadh however is struggling to obtain the support of many Muslim majority countries in Africa. Somalia was the latest, which turned down $80 million in aid to cut ties with Qatar. The countries of the Maghreb – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia – and Sudan, have called for dialogue without taking sides. Nigeria, which has enjoyed good relations with Qatar, is also not in any position to cut diplomatic relations with Doha without suffering negative consequences.

#QatarGate

Saudi was reported to have resorted to exerting pressure on those countries. The first is by threatening to cut off aid which is believed to be modestly successful and the second is said to be veiled threats to make obtaining visas more difficult for Hajj and Umrah.

The map of diplomatic relations between African states and the GCC is more complicated than Saudi initially anticipated. Over the past decade, Qatar has made important avenues in Africa. The emirate is hoping that its generosity will pay off.

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