Riyadh June 5 (TNS): Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the wealthy Gulf Arab state of supporting terrorism.
The coordinated move dramatically escalates a simmering dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.
The three Gulf states announced the closure of transport ties with Qatar and gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries.
Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups and spreading their violent ideology, in an apparent reference to its influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.
“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” state news agency SPA said.
The statement went on to accuse Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi’ite Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying it would withdraw its diplomatic mission from the Qatari capital of Doha within 48 hours and that
The statement further said that all Qatari diplomats should leave Bahrain within the same period.
The ministry’s statement said Qatari citizens needed to leave Bahrain within two weeks and that air and sea traffic between the two countries would be halted.
Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.
There was no immediate Qatari reaction to the announcements, but it has denied supporting terrorism or Iran in the past.
On its state news agency, Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, said Qatar’s policy “threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation.”
All the nations also announced plans to cut air and sea traffic to the peninsular country. It wasn’t immediately clear how that would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region’s major long-haul carriers.
The decision comes after Qatar alleged in late May that hackers took over the site of its state-run news agency and published what it called fake comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel.
Its Gulf Arab neighbours responded with anger, blocking Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera. TNS/ AP/ Reuters