Air travel in and around the Gulf will be affected after Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and Islamist radical groups. Etihad Airlines will stop flights to and from Qatar from Tuesday morning while Qatar Airways is yet to give a definitive timeline as to how and by when it will remove its aircraft from the region.
“The situation is changing as we speak. We will need more time to handle aircraft in the region. We will obviously not be able to fly over some countries, but, we’ll make sure that it doesn’t cause problems to passengers. We will come out with a detailed statement soon,” a spokesperson of Qatar Airways told indianexpress.com.
A spokesman for the Etihad Airways also confirmed to indianexpress.com that the airline will stop flights to and from Qatar effective from Tuesday morning in the light of the boycott.
The dispute between Qatar and its neighbouring countries began after the former alleged in May that hackers took over its state-run news agency and published fake comments from its ruling Emir regarding Iran and Israel. The other four countries had, at the time, responded by blocking all Qatari-based media, including Al-Jazeera.
The four countries announced that they would withdraw their respective diplomatic missions from Qatar, which recently won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, within the next few days. The nations have also cut off all air and sea movement to the peninsular country.
Bahrain said its diplomatic mission will be withdrawn from Doha, the capital of Qatar, within 48 hours. All Qatari diplomats have been directed by the country to leave after completing due procedures. Bahrain News Agency reported that Bahrain would cut off its airspace, ports and territorial waters to air traffic and shipping between the countries within 24 hours. Its citizens have been put under a travel ban to Qatar and also from staying there. Qatari nationals gave 14 days to leave the Kingdom now. “Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to undermine the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to interfere in its domestic affairs, as well as on the escalation and incitement of its media and its support to acts of terror and to financing armed groups associated with Iran to carry out subversive attacks and spread chaos in the Kingdom in flagrant violation of all agreements, covenants and principles of international law without any regard to values, law, morals or consideration of the principles of good neighbourliness or pledge to the premises of Gulf relations, and the denial of previous commitments, the Kingdom of Bahrain announces the severing of its diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar in order to preserve its national security,” Bahrain’s state media portal said.
Saudi Arabia also cut all land, air and sea contacts with Qatar. UAE’s state news agency WAM reported that its diplomats have been given 48 hours to leave the country. It cited Qatar’s “support, funding and embrace of terrorist, extremist and sectarian organisations,” AP reported.
The last flight from the country to Doha will depart at 2.45 am (local time) on Tuesday, Reuters reported.