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UK banks halt consumer Qatari riyal trades amid sanctions
[LONDON] Three of the UK's biggest banks have stopped trading Qatari riyals as the Gulf state faces sanctions imposed by a Saudi-led coalition of neighboring states.
Barclays Plc, Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc ceased the sale and buy-back of the Qatari currency for consumers, the banks said on Friday. Officials for the banks said the problem relates to a supplier, without providing details of the third party.
"In common with other banks, Barclays's high street foreign exchange service is supplied by a third party, which has stopped providing the Qatari riyal," London-based Barclays said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, we are therefore currently unable to buy the riyal from or sell it to our retail customers."
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing their fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member of supporting terrorism. The move disrupted trade and threatens to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances.
The Gulf state's central bank said on Thursday that the riyal is stable and guaranteed at its peg rate to the dollar, according to the official Qatar News Agency.
The bank also said it will guarantee foreign-exchange transactions inside and outside Qatar without delay, and that local banks are obligated to carry out transactions as usual.
Investors have tested the currency peg, with the riyal trading outside the central bank's preferred range in recent weeks. The June 5 decision by the Saudi-led bloc to cut ties with the country prompted some Gulf banks to withdraw funds, sparking a market selloff.
Travelex Group, a UK-based currency-exchange provider, said Friday afternoon that it was contacting clients to confirm that it has resumed trading in Qatari riyals.
The company had previously said on Thursday that it suspended purchases for a short period "due to business challenges." Travelex declined to comment on whether it was the provider of third-party forex services to the British banks.
The Saudi-led bloc has given Qatar until Monday to respond to a list of 13 requirements to end a standoff, though it hasn't specified what the repercussions would be if it fails to do so.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has described the demands as "very difficult" for Qatar to comply with.