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Qatar keeps on keeping on

With the energy sector operating normally, the country is adjusting to life under sanctions

These are the best of times and the worst of times for Qatar's national air carrier. While Qatar Airways has been forced by the Saudi-led economic embargo to give up a number of its lucrative routes in the region, others are thriving. In particular, services linking Doha and Kuwait are in particular demand. Qataris and others wanting to reach Saudi Arabia or the UAE have no choice but to change planes in Kuwait; and Saudis and Emiratis have to do the same to reach Qatar.

The change in flight patterns, like other effects of the embargo imposed in early June 2017, are becoming part of normal life. Inconvenient, but not life-threatening.

Of prime importance is that liquefied natural gas exports have carried on normally, with a rise of nearly 20% in revenues for 2017. Qatar is also making early preparations for the plans, announced last year after the embargo was put in place, to increase output from the giant North gasfield (shared with Iran) and hike LNG production by almost a quarter—23m tonnes—to 100m tonnes a year by 2024.

At the same time, Qatar has retained the moral high ground in the dispute with its neighbours by ruling out the possibility of disrupting exports of gas to the UAE and Oman via the Dolphin pipeline.

On the ground in Qatar there's little to indicate any difference from pre-June 2017, with construction of facilities connected to the 2022 World Cup carrying on as before. While the re-routing of imports away from Jebel Ali port in the UAE to facilities in Oman has increased import costs and caused delivery delays, the hurriedly introduced new measures are settling down.

What nobody in Qatar or anywhere else in the Gulf can imagine is how the spat will end. Neither side appears willing to compromise, but conversely there's no apparent desire by any party to escalate the dispute. If it's still rumbling on in 2022, perhaps the Qataris will take a leaf out of the South Korean Winter Olympics book and see if sports diplomacy will encourage Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to send teams to the World Cup-as a prelude to a thaw in relations.

This article is part of an in-depth series on Geopolitics. Next article is: The Gulf stare down continues

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