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Qatar asks World Trade Organisation to rule in row with UAE

Doha says UAE refused to settle boycott issues in talks and asks WTO to intervene
Headquarters of World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva (Reuters)

Qatar has asked the World Trade Organisation to set up a dispute panel to adjudicate in its row with the United Arab Emirates, according to a document published by the WTO on Thursday, escalating a trade complaint Doha lodged with the WTO in July.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on 5 June, accusing it of backing militant groups and arch foe Iran, allegations Doha denies.

Qatar made the formal protest at the WTO on 31 July by "requesting consultations" with the three countries, triggering a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

The UAE had refused to take part in talks, the Qatari submission to the WTO said.

"As a result of the UAE's refusal to engage in consultations with Qatar, the dispute has not been resolved," it said.

The document did not mention Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and it was not immediately clear if Qatar would also ask for adjudication in its complaints against them.

The UAE denies that the boycott violates international trade regulations.

The boycotting countries have previously told the WTO they would cite national security to justify their actions against Qatar, using an almost unprecedented exemption allowed under the WTO rules.

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The WTO suit does not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott. Western-backed efforts by Gulf state Kuwait to mediate have yielded little progress so far.

The disputed trade restrictions include Gulf bans on trade through Qatar's ports and travel by Qatari citizens to the three Gulf countries, blockages of Qatari digital services, closure of sea borders and the closure of airspace to Qatari aircraft.

Adjudication of the dispute is not automatic. Under the WTO's rules, the UAE is allowed to reject Qatar's first request for a dispute panel, so Qatar has to ask two meetings of the dispute settlement body before a panel will be set up.

Qatar said it would make the first request at the next meeting on 24 October.

The UAE denies that the boycott violates international trade regulations.

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