The Qatar Foreign Ministry on Monday said it regrets the ‘unjustified’ decision made by three Gulf Arab countries, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt to sever all diplomatic relations. Citing Qatar’s support for Islamic groups and terrorism, the four nations said Doha was ‘destabilising security of the region.’ There has been growing tension between the Gulf countries after Doha’s state-run news agency quoted Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticising Saudi and expressing support for Iran. Qatari officials categorically deny this, and allege their website was hacked to publish ‘fake’ quotes.
“The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari foreign ministry was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera. “The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of its (Qatar’s) sovereignty as a state.”
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In a coordinated move, the four countries announced they will be withdrawing their diplomatic missions from Qatar in the next few days, and seal off air and sea traffic to the gas-rich country. Bahrain has directed all visiting and residing Qataris in the country to leave in the next two weeks. The government has also banned its citizens from travelling to Qatar. Saudi has urged other ‘brotherly countries’ to follow suit. Yemen, Libya and Abu Dhabi are reportedly supporting this move.
Qatar’s stock market plunged 5.7 per cent during opening trade today. Some of the market’s top blue chips were hit the hardest, including Vodafone Qatar, the most heavily traded stock, which slid 8.9 per cent. Qatar National Bank, the country’s largest bank, tanked 4.6 per cent as well.
Qatar Airways, in response to the developments, has suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia.
(With inputs from agencies)