Skift Take

A major bank slams the brakes on Middle East travel and events. Others could follow.

Multinational investment bank UBS has told its staff not to go on any work-related trips to the Middle East. The company has also hit the brakes on an event it was supposed to host in Qatar later this month, according to an internal memo that was seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by a UBS spokesman.

The spokesman also confirmed to Bloomberg that UBS was canceling business travel and events in the Middle East for “the foreseeable future.”

Qatar isn’t the closest Middle East country to Israel, nor does the small Gulf state even fly directly to Israel. However, Qatar is in the middle of mediating to negotiate freedom for Israeli women and children seized by the militant group and held in Gaza in exchange for the release of 36 Palestinian women and children from Israel’s prisons.

The entire GCC treads carefully on any topics to do with Israel and Palestinians. The UAE’s official statement on the situation was as follows: “[The UAE] expressed great concern regarding the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and stressed the importance of halting escalation and preserving the lives of civilians.”

Just weeks ago, it was the hope of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, that relations between the Gulf capital and Israel may normalize. “Good negotiations,” were happening on that front, the de facto ruler told Fox News in September.

Now, he shares a firm stance. “The kingdom will continue to stand by the Palestinian nation in its quest for its legitimate rights,” he said in a press release after a phone conversation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

It is the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the greatest focus on events and meetings in the region. Right now, it’s business as usual. Dubai is mid-way through an accessible tourism expo and Doha is hosting the Geneva International Motor Show.

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Tags: Israel tourism, Israel travel, travel news

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