Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain cut ties with Qatar

June 5, 2017 - 12:22

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt say they are severing diplomatic relations with Qatar, Al Jazeera reported on Monday.

The Saudi kingdom made the announcement via its state-run Saudi Press Agency early on Monday, saying it was taking action for what it called the protection of national security.

The three Arab states in the Persian Gulf region gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries, Reuters news agency reported.

Saudi Arabia also closed the border and halted air and sea traffic with Qatar, urging "all brotherly countries and companies to do the same".

The statement appeared to be timed in concert with an earlier announcement by Bahrain, which was similarly cutting ties and halting air and sea traffic between the two countries.

Qatar's foreign ministry said it regretted the measures by the Arab nations, calling the decisions "unjustified".

"The measures are unjustified and are based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact," the statement said, adding that the decisions would "not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents".

Bahrain's foreign ministry issued a statement saying it would withdraw its diplomatic mission from the Qatari capital, Doha, within 48 hours and that all Qatari diplomats should leave Bahrain within the same period.

Egypt also announced the closure of its airspace and seaports for all Qatari transportation "to protect its national security", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Etihad Airways, the UAE's flag carrier, said it would suspend flights to and from Qatar beginning Tuesday morning.

It was not immediately clear how Monday's announcement would affect other airlines.

A Saudi-led coalition which for more than two years has been fighting rebels in Yemen separately announced that Qatar was no longer welcome in the alliance.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a statement on Monday while being on state visit in Australia, urging the regional Arab states to stay united.

"We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences," he said in Sydney.

"If there's any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) remain united."

Hacking dispute

The dispute between Qatar and the Persian Gulf's Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar's state-run news agency. It has spiraled since.

Following the hacking on Tuesday, comments falsely attributed to Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, were broadcast in Qatar.

Qatar's government categorically denied that the comments, in which the country's leader expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel - while suggesting that U.S. President Donald Trump may not last in power, were ever made.

"There are international laws governing such crimes, especially the cyberattack. [The hackers] will be prosecuted according to the law," Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Wednesday.

UAE-based Sky News Arabia and Al Arabiya kept running the discredited story, despite the Qatari denials.

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