Qatar Skips Saudi Chess Tournament Over Flag Ban Amid Gulf Crisis

Published December 25th, 2017 - 10:18 GMT

Qatar has said it will not send chess players to take part in a tournament in Saudi Arabia after authorities banned them from displaying the Qatari flag.

The Qatar Chess Federation announced on Sunday its team will skip the Blitz Chess Championships in Riyadh this week in response to the demand.

The federation said in a statement carried by Qatari state media that Saudi authorities had "required the players not to raise the flag of their country Qatar during the competitions".

"This is a blatant injustice against our players and a violation of all international laws and sports," it said.

The move comes amid an ongoing diplomatic and economic blockade against the emirate by a Saudi-led bloc of countries.

The head of the Qatar Chess Association, Mohammed al-Medaihki, said he regretted that Saudi authorities had chosen to involve of politics in sports.

"This is contrary to all regulations and international and sports laws," Medaihki said.

Riyadh also declined to grant visas for Israeli players to participate in the speed chess championship, taking place from 26-30 December, despite warming Saudi-Israeli relations.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and economic ties with gas-rich Qatar, accusing it of links to extremist groups and being too close to Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival.

Doha has denied the charges and said the blockade is an attempt to incite regime change.

Tensions between Qatar and its neighbours almost forced the 2017 edition of football Gulf Cup to be cancelled, until Kuwait offered to host the tournament.

Last tournament winners, Qatar, were due to host the games, which kicked off on Saturday, but the threat of a boycott by the bloc threatened the games.

Qatar agreed to transfer the Gulf Cup hosting rights to Kuwait, following an eleventh-hour deal which saw the tournament return.

Copyright @ 2019 The New Arab.

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