Qatar to Close Israeli Office in Doha
Qatar will announce the closure of Israel's trade office in Doha on Thursday, bowing to Saudi demands to break links with the Jewish state before next week's Islamic summit, a senior Arab official told AFP.
"The Qatari government will announce in the day the breaking of relations with Israel and the closure of its trade office in Doha," the official said shortly before the opening of preparatory ministerial conference of the Islamic summit.
The ninth meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) was thrown into doubt Wednesday when Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, including Iran and Lebanon, considered a boycott of the November 12-14 summit over the "deteriorating situation" in the Palestinian territories.
Muslim powerhouse Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and where the OIC is based, subsequently dropped its boycott threat after Qatar bowed to its demand to break links with Israel.
Unlike fellow Arab states Oman, Tunisia and Morocco, which also had low-level ties with the Jewish state before the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising at the end of September, Qatar had previously ignored calls to close down its Israeli trade office.
Israel opened the trade mission in 1996, but Qatar froze relations later the same year after the rise to power of right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister.
The office, which does not fly a Star of David flag, keeps a low profile and the mission's head stressed on Wednesday that "we don't get involved with the politics".
"We have no relations with the Qatari government. This is only a trade office," Eli Avidar told AFP, describing the limited network of missions in the Arab world as "part of the peace process".
The Saudi threat of a boycott -- its first of an OIC summit in the organization’s 31-year history -- came on top of decisions to stay at home by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and Bahrain's emir, Sheikh Hamdan bin Issa al-Khalifa.
The Palestinian uprising will top the agenda of the three-day Doha summit, to be held under the slogan of "Peace and Development".
-- DOHA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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