January 23, 2018 / 10:15 AM / 3 months ago

UAE military ordered not to escalate Qatar crisis: official

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates’ military have been told not to do anything to worsen a seven-month diplomatic crisis with Qatar, a senior military officer said on Tuesday, a move which may reduce tensions over mutual accusations about military overflights.

The new bout of verbal sparring between the Gulf Arab rivals is causing concern among foreign investors that the rift, which also involves Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, might lead to military confrontation.

The four Arab powers imposed travel, diplomatic and trade sanctions on Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the charges.

“We got orders not to escalate and to commit to regional safety and security”, air force Brigadier General Helal Saeed al-Qubaisi told reporters at a news conference in the capital Abu Dhabi.

UAE military aircraft would also fly alternative routes over Saudi Arabia to avoid the possibility of interception by Qatari warplanes, al-Qubaisi added.

The UAE said on Jan. 15 that Qatari warplanes had twice intercepted its civilian aircraft that day during routine flights to Bahrain, but Qatar called the claim “completely untrue”.

The UAE also accused Qatari warplanes of harassing three of its military aircraft in international airspace on Dec. 27 and Jan. 12.

Qatar said the UAE allegations followed incidents on Dec. 21 and Jan. 3 in which it accused UAE military aircraft of violating its airspace. Abu Dhabi denies the charges.

Efforts by fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Kuwait to end the rift, one of the worst ever in the Gulf region, have failed to produce any results.

Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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