Qatar isolated after neighbors cut off ties

 
467

Doha, June 5 (TNS): Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have given all Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their territory. The three countries have also banned their citizens from travelling to Qatar.

A number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region.

However, Saudi Arabia says it will still allow Qataris to take part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The UAE and Egypt have given Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave both countries.

Airlines from many of the affected countries, including EgyptAir, Etihad Airways and Emirates, said they are to cancel flights to and from the Qatari capital Doha.

The Gulf allies said they had closed their airspace to Qatar Airways, which has suspended all its flights to Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s state news agency said it was cutting its ties because Qatar was “shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs”.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels also expelled Qatar from its alliance because of its “practices that strengthen terrorism” and its support of extremist groups.

The states say Qatar backs militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of oil-rich Qatar.

Qatar called the decision “unjustified” and with “no basis in fact”.

The unprecedented move is seen as a major split between powerful Gulf countries, who are also close US allies.

It comes amid heightened tensions between Gulf countries and their near-neighbour, Iran. The Saudi statement accused Qatar of collaborating with “Iranian-backed terrorist groups” in its restive eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.

The diplomatic withdrawal was first put into motion by Bahrain, then Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives all followed suit.

SPA cited officials as saying the decision was taken to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.