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Arab states cut Qatar ties in major diplomatic crisis

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain cite Doha’s ‘support of extremism’ for decision

By AFP - Jun 06,2017 - Last updated at Jun 06,2017

People buy snacks at a shop in Doha on Monday (AFP photo)

RIYADH — Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Monday cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism, in the biggest diplomatic crisis to hit the region in years.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and the Maldives joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt in severing relations with gas-rich Qatar, with Riyadh accusing Doha of supporting groups, including some backed by Iran, "that aim to destabilise the region".

Qatar reacted with fury, denying any support for extremists and accusing its Gulf neighbours of seeking to put the country under "guardianship".

The crisis was likely to have wide-ranging consequences, not just for Qatar and its citizens but around the Middle East and for Western interests.

Qatar hosts the largest US airbase in the region, which is crucial to operations against Daesh militants, and is set to host the 2022 football World Cup.

Monday's announcement came less than a month after US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia to cement ties with Riyadh and called for a united front among Muslim countries against extremism.

It also followed weeks of rising tensions between Doha and its neighbours, including Qatari accusations of a concerted media campaign against it and the alleged hacking of the Qatar News Agency.

 

Qatar slams ‘baseless claims’ 

 

The Gulf states and Egypt said they were severing diplomatic ties and closing transport links with Qatar, which relies on imports from its neighbours.

The Gulf states banned their citizens from travelling to Qatar and ordered Qatari citizens to leave within 14 days. 

Saudi Arabia also closed its borders with Qatar, effectively blocking food and other supplies exported by land to Qatar.

Supermarkets were besieged by shoppers Monday as many rushed to buy food, leaving shelves bare and resulting in queues up to 25-people deep at some major stores in central Doha.

The Qatar Stock Exchange tumbled 8 per cent on opening and eventually closed down 7.58 per cent.

Riyadh said in a statement its measures were the result of “gross violations committed by authorities in Qatar”, accusing Doha of harbouring “terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilise the region including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Daesh terror group and Al Qaeda”.

Gulf states have for years accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist organisation.

Riyadh also accused Doha of supporting Iran-backed “terrorist activities” in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif, as well as in Bahrain, both of which have seen Shiite unrest in recent years.

Any suggestion that Qatar is backing the agenda of Shiite-dominated Iran — Sunni Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival — is especially sensitive, particularly in the wake of Trump’s comments last month.

“The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state”, it said, insisting authorities would “take all measures necessary... to foil attempts to affect or harm Qatar’s society and economy”.

 

Flights cancelled 

 

Economic consequences were already emerging, with UAE carriers Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia, as well as Saudi Airlines, announcing the suspension of all flights to and from Qatar as of Tuesday morning.

Egypt said it would also suspend air links with Qatar from Tuesday and gave Doha’s ambassador 48 hours to leave the country.

Qatar Airways said it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia with immediate effect, at least until the end of Monday. 

The airline — one of the region’s busiest — also faced major potential problems after Saudi civil aviation authorities said the country’s airspace would be closed to Qatari planes.

The Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen said it had expelled Qatar from the group.

The coalition accused Qatar of providing “support to [terrorist] organisations in Yemen” — the first time it has made such a claim.

Gulf countries previously recalled their ambassadors from Qatar in 2014, ostensibly over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but Monday’s moves go much further.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies may have felt emboldened by Trump’s visit, which saw the new president clearly align US interests with Riyadh and lash out at Iran.

Speaking in Sydney, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not expect the announcement to have “any significant impact... on the unified fight against terrorism”.

 He encouraged Qatar and its neighbours to “sit down together”, adding that Washington was ready for “any role that we can play” in helping to overcome divisions.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also urged Qatar and its neighbours to talk.

“Neighbours are permanent; geography can’t be changed. Coercion is never the solution. Dialogue is imperative, especially during blessed Ramadan”, Zarif tweeted, referring to the Muslim month of fasting.

 

‘Unprecedented tensions’ 

 

Hints of an impending crisis emerged last month when Doha alleged that hackers were behind the release of false remarks attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani published on the Qatar News Agency website.

The stories quoted him questioning US hostility towards Iran, speaking of “tensions” between Doha and Washington and speculating that Trump might not remain in power for long.

Doha denied the comments and said it had been the victim of a “shameful cybercrime”.

Media organisations in several Gulf countries reported the emir’s comments as fact, despite Doha’s official denial.

The crisis is the worst to hit Gulf Arab nations since the creation in 1981 of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) grouping Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

There was no immediate word from Kuwait and Oman on Monday on their ties with Qatar.

Last week, the Qatari emir travelled to Kuwait to meet Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in what was widely seen as an attempt at mediation by the Kuwaitis.

“This certainly represents an unprecedented uptick in tensions within the GCC,” said Adam Baron, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

 

“Qatar has long had an independent streak that’s led to resentment from its neighbours.”

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Comments

WHO SAID THAT JORDANIANS CANNOT SEE, THINK OR TUNE INTO PUBLIC POLICY MAKING APPARATUS?. I AM VERY HAPPY TO READ THAT MY IN LAWS ARE LETTING THEIR FRUSTRATIONS KNOWN AND PUTTING THE LEADERS IN THAT REGION ON NOTICE OF ANY CONSEQUENCIES THAT MAY FOLLOW. GOOD JOD AND YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOUR INPUT.

What is worse than the absolute and semi-absolute monarchies of the Middle East? The republics that replace them when they fall. As bizarre as it seems to us in the democratic world, the choice in the Middle East is not between monarchy and democracy, but, monarchy and dictatorship. You might reply, that monarchy is dictatorship. Yes it is but it also tends to rely on being popular to be able to hand power to its heirs and it tends to have a history of uniting the tribes and religions of its Kingdom, that is how it got to power.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran Libya...etc , all had their problems as monarchies but did you notice what happened when they fell? Civil war, repression of religious and tribal minorities, wars.

The real problem, the root of the entire Middle East conflict isn't Saudi or Iran. They are just bit players. No, the real problem that is causing all this chaos, is a state that can't be named, and it is a brave soul who dares criticize it. But at some point the issue will have to be tackled.ISRAEL

I trust Qatar over Saudi any day. I and others see Saudi as the warmonger and it bullies other Arabic states but glad to see Qatar will not put up with it. Interesting to see real un bullied news coming from al Jazeera news in the near future. I hope Jordan don't keep defending Saudis in exchange for financial aids. Trump whose trying to drag the region into another destructive war is playing the same trick played on Saddam Hussein by the American Ambassador when she gave him the go ahead sign of invading Kuwait . Prince Mohammed bin Salman, eager to secure his own path to the Saudi throne, cannot afford a failure. He may even want to go the limit and eliminate Qatar as an independent state, the first time this has happened in the Gulf since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990

Hungry eagles and vultures flying over the middle east looking at the great sales opportunities.

Qatar is paying the price of its resistance to the Saudi Emirate dominance and wants to be a free country not under any kind of guardianship. Will Jordan, which remains silent on these recent and dangerous events so far bend to the Saudi- Emirate pressure and cut diplomatic relations with Qatar or will stay a free Hashmite Country?

The crisis comes after US President Donald Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia for a summit with Arab and Muslims rulers. Since the meeting, unrest in the region has grown. This situation will soon escalate into armed conflict between Qatar, Egypt and the GCC countries and it could spread to include Iran and Israel .

Another scandal of the Arab's endless scandals which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 big Scandal when Israel in a matter of six hours defeated the armies of Egypt , Syria and Jordan capturing the West Bank , Golan Heights ,Sinai Desert and Gaza Strip . The Arab people should sit down and seriously think of their future as these puppet childish regimes are leading them and the whole region to a catastrophe and to the edge of abyss. The region will never be stable and secure unless we put an end to the West interference in our internal affairs before it is too late . Enough is enough .

HERE WE GO AGAIN AND NOW WHAT!!!!!!. THIS IS NOT ONLY DANGEROUS BUT ALL IT TAKES IS A MISCALCULATION TO TRIGER YET ANOTHER WAR. IS THIS THE DESTINY OF THE ARAB WORLD OR A CAUSE!!!. HOW CAN BROTHERS PICK UP ARMS AGAINST BROTHERS?. THIS CAN EASILY GET OUT OF HAND AND SET FIRE ON PETROL IN THAT REGION. ALL INVOLVED SHOULD TAKE A DEEP BREATH, THINK OF THEIR FAMILY, CHILDREN AND GRAND CHILDREN AND WHAT MAY BECOME OF THEIR FAITH IF ANOTHER FRONT IS CREATED TO ADD ON THE TENSION IN THAT WAR TORN REGION. I HOPE THAT THIS CAN STOP AT THIS POINT OTHERWISE NO COUNTRY IN THAT REGION WILL BE SPARED DIRECTLY AND INDIRECTLY. MY FRIENDS, LET US LEARN FROM HISTORY TO AVOID BEING A "BROTHER OF MR LATE".

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