Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed ties with Qatar on Monday after accusing the nation of supporting ‘terrorism’ and Islamic groups. The move comes amid a deepening rift between the Gulf Arab nations, reported the Associated Press. 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.
In response, Qatar’s foreign ministry today said it regrets the ‘unjustified’ decision made by the Arab countries. “The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari foreign ministry said, adding, “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.”
Qatar’s stock market plunged 5.7 per cent in the first five minutes of opening trade on Monday, with some of the market’s top blue chips being hit hardest. Vodafone Qatar, the most heavily traded stock, slid 8.9 per cent, reported Reuters. Qatar National Bank, the country’s largest bank, tanked 4.6 per cent.
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, the first country to cut ties with gas-rich Qatar, accused it of backing terrorism ‘at all levels’ and interfering in its internal affairs. It said its diplomatic mission will be withdrawn from Doha, the capital of Qatar, within 48 hours. It directed all Qatari diplomats to leave Bahrain within the same period, after completion of all necessary procedures. The country’s official news agency, Bahrain News Agency, added that Bahrain would cut off its airspace, ports and territorial waters to air traffic and shipping between the counties within 24 hours. The government has banned its citizens from travelling to Qatar or from staying there. Qatari residents and visitors have been given 14 days to leave the Kingdom.
“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, which soon after announced that it was breaking off diplomatic relations with Qatar, said the move was initiated to protects its Kingdom from terrorism and extremism, reported Reuters. Its official news agency stated it would cut diplomatic and consular relations with Qatar “proceeding from the exercise of its sovereign right guaranteed by international law and the protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”. Saudi Arabia cut all land air and sea contacts with Qatar “and urges all brotherly countries and companies to do the same.”
Saudi has also said Qatari troops would be expelled from the on-going war in Yemen. The Saudi-led Arab coalition has been involved in the war for the last two years. Yeman, in response, has cut ties with Qatar as well, and has supported its removal from the Saudi-led coalition, reported Reuters.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates simultaneously announced they would be ending diplomatic ties with Qatar, Egypt accused Qatar of backing terrorism groups, while UAE said it is “destabilising security of the region.” The Egyptian foreign ministry announced that its airspace and seaports have been sealed off for all Qatari transportation in a bit to ensure ‘national security’, AP reported.
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.
In response to the developments, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the Gulf states to remain united and address their differences. Pakistan’s foreign ministry released a statement saying it has no plans to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, in light of these events, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned airline firm Etihad Airways has announced suspension of its flights to and fro Doha from Tuesday morning, until further notice. The last flight from the country to Doha will depart at 2.45 am (local time) on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Long-haul carrier Emirates has suspended all flights to Qatar, as well, until further notice.
Qatar Airways has said that all its flights to Saudi Arabia will be suspended.
(With inputs from agencies)