ABU DHABI, Uae — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have broken off relations with Qatar, in the worst diplomatic crisis to hit Gulf Arab states in decades. The Arab nations are accusing the wealthy Gulf Arab state of supporting terrorism.
The three Gulf countries and Egypt have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. Qatar — which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia — has rejected the accusations calling them “unjustified” and “baseless”. Yemen and the Maldives also cut ties with Qatar.
Qatari citizens have been told they have 14 days to leave Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, while those countries also banned their own citizens from entering Qatar.
Qataris given 14 days to leave the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Qatar ejected from the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over alleged support of ISIS and al-Qaeda, according to Saudi state media Yemen and Maldives governments also cut ties with Qatar Emirates airline says it’s suspending all flights to and from Doha starting Tuesday morning Kuwait, Oman only Gulf Cooperation Council members remaining with ties to Qatar. Iran blames tensions on Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s state news agency announced the cutting of ties Monday, saying it was seeking to “protect national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.”
All ports of entry between the two countries will be closed, according to the statement.
Gulf allies have repeatedly criticized Qatar for alleged support of the Muslim Brotherhood, a nearly 100-year-old Islamist group considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The UAE accused Qatar of “funding and hosting” the group in its statement announcing the severance of ties.
It also cited Qatar’s “ongoing policies that rattle the security and sovereignty of the region as well as its manipulation and evasion of its commitments and treaties” as the reason for its actions.
Saudi Arabia accused Qatar in its statement of “adopting” groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar denies that it funds or supports extremist groups.
However, the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels also expelled Qatar from its alliance, alleging support of “al-Qaeda and Daesh [also known as ISIS], as well as dealing with the rebel militias”, according to Saudi’s state media agency.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar form a close regional alliance known as the Gulf Cooperation Council, established in 1981. After Monday’s development, only Kuwait and Oman have ties with Qatar.
As the crisis deepened in the region, Bahrain’s foreign ministry said it was suspending diplomatic relations “in order to preserve its national security,” according to a statement.
Qatari diplomats had 48 hours to leave and airspace and ports between the countries would be closed within 24 hours of Bahrain’s announcement, it said. Bahrain said its decision was based on what it said was Qatar’s destabilizing actions.
In further developments Monday, Egypt said that Qatar had taken an “anti-Egyptian course” and that Cairo had been unable to dissuade it from supporting terrorism.
Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that Qatar diplomats had 48 hours to leave the country.
Flights suspended, lines at supermarkets
Dubai-based airline Emirates said it is suspending all flights to and from Doha starting Tuesday; Emirates said it was instructed to do so by the UAE government.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways will also suspend its Doha flights on Wednesday. Other airways in the countries involved are expected to follow suit.
There were reports of long lines at supermarkets in Qatar on Monday as people stocked up on food following news that Saudi Arabia was closing the country’s only land border.
Shalome Pinto shared pictures with CNN from Lulu Hypermarket in Doha and said her usual two minute wait at the check out was 30 minutes amid the rush.
Tensions over Iran
The news comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt blocked several Qatari media outlets — including Al Jazeera — over comments allegedly made by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Hamad Al Thani. Al Thani reportedly hailed Iran as an “Islamic power” and criticized US President Donald Trump’s policy towards Tehran.
The Emir’s alleged comments appeared on Qatar’s official news agency, but Qatar claimed that the website was “hacked”, the report fabricated by the culprits.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are at odds over a number of regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and what Saudis see as Tehran’s growing influence in the kingdom’s sphere of influence — especially in Syria, Lebanon and neighboring Yemen.
“There are two competing theories,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations said about the origin of the spat.
“One is that Saudi Arabia felt emboldened after Donald Trump’s visit, and Trump’s administration has had a strong stance on Iran, which is backed by Qatar.
“Another theory is that this is a product of month’s tension, all brought to a breaking point after the Qatar news agency hacking story.”
Trump recently visited the Saudi capital and addressed 55 Muslim leaders in a landmark speech urging them to double down on efforts to combat terrorism.
Iran’s state news agency, IRNA blamed tensions on the US president’s visit.
“The first impression of the US President Donald Trump’s visit to the region is the recent tension in the countries’ relations,” said the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi.
Meanwhile Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said: “Iran is calling on all parties of the current dispute in the southern Persian Gulf to learn from lessons of the region’s past bitter experiences, and move towards decreasing tension by avoiding excited reactions and resorting to wisdom and restraint.”
US offers support
Speaking from Australia, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the respective countries to work out their differences, and offered US assistance to do so.
“We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences. And if there is any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the GCC remain unified,” Tillerson said.
The US’ biggest concentration of military personnel in the Middle East are located at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base. The sprawling base 20 miles southwest of the Qatari capital of Doha is home to some 11,000 US military personnel.
Qatar is due to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but FIFA declined requests for comment on whether the tournament will be affected.