Qatar has become a stronger and independent nation with the blockade by the Saudi-led bloc, which marks its second year (June 5), Swedish ambassador Ewa Polano has said. “I congratulate Qatar and how well its leadership has handled the blockade, which looked as a crisis in the initial months in the summer of 2017, but was then rapidly turned into a well-used opportunity and into a success story for Qatar,” the envoy told 'Gulf Times'.

She noted that the region and the world, including Sweden, have been taken by surprise during the last years with the impressive Qatari diplomacy, the positive development of its international relations, its changes of trade routes and the Qatari economy. Polano lauded the country’s reforms such as the new Qatari law being issued in January this year on 100% ownership for foreign investors in a majority of sectors and the Qatar Free Zone Authority (QFZA) being established.

Polano, along with a Swedish business delegation, met with the management of the QFZA last year, paving the way for at least three Swedish companies to establish operations in the country. “We have in fact received strong interest from more Swedish companies, because they see Qatar as a very interesting strategic hub for logistics/storage for them to invest in and to reach out from Doha to Mena, Africa, and Asia, but as long as the blockade is ongoing, it is a challenge in these specific logistic business areas,” she said.

About Qatar’s major infrastructure projects, Polano said another highlight which will change life in Doha, giving people more time to read and talk with friends and family, or interact on social media instead of driving a car, “is the fantastic Doha Metro.” “I was among the first ambassadors to try it. It was very comfortable, smart and relaxing,” she said.

About the art scene in the country, the envoy noted that the focus on art provides also stunning experiences for foreign tourists, not only in the art museums but also at the metro stations. “I was particularly happy to see the umbrella arch at the Corniche Metro Station. So beautiful and so surprisingly colourful. With the new extraordinary National Museum of Qatar, the Doha Metro and soon the FIFA 2022 World Cup, plus the lovely Souq Waqif, Katara–the Cultural Village, and much more,” she said.

“Foreign tourists coming to Qatar will find an attractive, super modern city full of spectacular architecture, museums, culture, beaches, exciting restaurants and so many shopping malls to choose from,” Polano added. Sweden has this year seen two new tour operators offering Swedish tourists vacation packages in Qatar, according to the envoy.

“I am glad to see more and more Swedes visiting Qatar – and by the way – Qatari tourism to Sweden has more than doubled. Qatar Airways flies twice daily to Stockholm, and since December 2018 also five times a week to our second biggest city, Gothenburg,” she said.

Polano said the blockade also strengthened Qatar’s bilateral relations with many countries, including Sweden. “Sweden’s trade with Qatar substantially increased during the last two years. We have more direct trade now, thanks to the blockade and the increasing importance regionally of the new Hamad Port in Doha,” she noted.

“Sweden is also very proud that Ooredoo did choose Ericsson as its 5G provider as per a contract signed in March 2019. Ericsson 5G will influence the dynamics, not only Qatar’s telecom network, but also in areas such as Qatar’s e-health and for the FIFA World Cup 2022.”

Polano said the Ericsson 5G was used at the Amiri Cup Final at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah a few weeks ago.

About the best solution on the regional rift, she cited dialogue is needed and must be continuously encouraged.

“Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce a feminism foreign policy, which was presented in 2014 by Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom. My answer to your question will therefore be inspired by these Swedish policies,” Polano explained. “One Swedish remedy to a solution to the rift could be to try the famous UN Resolution 1325 on "Women, Peace and Security”.

“The mothers, sisters, wives, daughters with relatives in another GCC country, who could not attend weddings, funerals or just visit a dear family member due to the rift, should be given the strongest voices at a negotiation table and a solid political platform, to find a way around this rift among the GCC countries, in order to return to peace and prosperity in the Gulf region,” she added.

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