By George Psyllides and Stelios Orphanides
The decision of four Arab nations to cut off ties to Qatar citing its alleged links to terrorism is not directly affecting the operations of Cypriot companies in the Gulf state at the moment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Still, business sources are not ruling out a further escalation of the diplomatic spat that erupted on Monday after Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Maldives, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and transport links including access of their air space to Qatari aircraft. The step prompted Qatari consumers to start stockpiling food and supplies, Reuters reported on Monday.
“We continue work on our projects as usual,” said Mary Andreou, human resource management at J&P (Overseas), a unit of the construction giant Joannou and Paraskevaides Group. “We want to believe that the situation will normalise soon. For the time being, our workers there are comfortable with respect to supplies and there is no cause for concern”.
If the situation changes, J&P (Overseas), involved in the construction of the Qatar Foundation Stadium that will host games during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, together with J&P Qatar WLL, J&P Avax S.A. and Conspel Qatar WLL, will take measures, Andreou said after talking to the country manager in Qatar.
In the past, J&P was involved in various projects in Qatar such as roads, hospitals, housing complexes, hotels, and construction of the artificial Island of Pearls.
“As a country we have close ties with countries in the area and we hope there is no deterioration,” said Marios Tsiakkis, secretary general of the Nicosia-based Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It is still a major upset for the area and we, the parties involved, should seek via diplomacy to normalise relations”.
Tsiakkis did not rule out an escalation to a situation in which companies operating in the jurisdiction of Qatar may be forced to choose sides.
“We know the area well,” he said.
In the meantime, the foreign ministry said it was monitoring the situation, adding that travel and residence restrictions imposed against Qatar did not apply to Cypriot nationals.
“It is expected that there will be severe disruption of movement and partial or full closure of air, naval, and border crossings from these countries into and from Qatar,” the foreign ministry said. It advised Cypriot nationals to directly contact airlines or tour operators for further information.
Cypriots may also contact the Cypriot diplomatic representation in Doha directly at 00 974 44 93 43 90 or 00 974 44 93 43 91.
Qatar Airways’ four flights to and from Larnaca airport remained unaffected on Tuesday but their times were expected to change on Wednesday. Airport sources said the arrival of the 10.55am flight was pushed back to 11.45am while the evening flight was expected to arrive at 7.50pm instead of 7pm.