CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt will end visa-free entry for Qatari nationals with some exceptions, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Monday, the latest measure taken against Doha which Cairo and three Gulf governments are boycotting.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny Gulf monarchy, after accusing it of financing militant groups and allying with their regional arch-foe Iran. Doha denies the accusations.
“It does not make sense to keep making exceptions for Qatar and giving it privileges in light of its current positions,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. Qatari nationals will now have to apply for a visa in order to enter Egypt.
Qatari nationals with Egyptian mothers, those married to Egyptians, and Qataris studying in Egypt will be exempt from having to apply for a visa, he added.
Sources at Cairo International Airport told Reuters the decision would be implemented as of Thursday July 20, which the Qatari Foreign Ministry later confirmed on Twitter.
Foreign workers make up around 1.6 million of Qatar’s 2.5 million population, and hundreds of thousands of them are Egyptians, making them one of the biggest foreign contingents in the Gulf country. So far no action has been taken against them.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Kuwaiti counterpart earlier on Monday that Egypt is standing by the list of demands it and the three Gulf countries made of Qatar and will keep sanctions against Doha in place.
Kuwait has been leading mediation efforts between Qatar and the four Arab states boycotting it. Its top diplomat Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah met Shoukry and President Abdel Fattah al Sisi in Cairo on Monday.
“The Foreign Minister affirmed to his Kuwaiti counterpart Egypt’s commitment to the list of demands presented to the state of Qatar and the continuation of sanctions taken against it,” Abu Zeid said in a statement earlier.
The insistence comes “in light of what the quartet states see as Qatar’s stalling and procrastination, and lack of concern for the concerns of the four states,” he said.
Shoukry told Sabah the only way the crisis would be resolved was if Qatar fulfilled the demands, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the pan-Arab al Jazeera satellite TV channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with rival Iran.
Sisi told Sabah he appreciated what Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah was doing to preserve Arab unity but that Egypt would not let anyone interfere in its affairs and would stand strong against policies that support terrorism, his spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Editing by Toby Chopra