By staff & agencies

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain cut ties to Qatar

June 6, 2017 - 5:0

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt , Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives say they are severing diplomatic relations with Qatar.

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 news agency released a statement in which it accused Qatar of "harboring a multitude of terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to create instability in the region".

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

Saudi 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".

"The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of its [Qatar's] sovereignty as a state," it added.

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.

UAE-based carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai said they 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 attacking Yemen separately announced that Qatar was no longer welcome in the alliance.

Yemen's fugitive government also cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of working with its enemies in the Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported.

A senior Iranian official said the measures by the Arab nations would not help end the crisis in the Middle East.

"The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders ... is not a way to resolve crisis ... As I said before, aggression and occupation will have no result but instability," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted, referring to the coalition's involvement in Yemen.

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 cyber attack. [The hackers] will be prosecuted according to the law," Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, said on Wednesday.

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

 Leaders and markets reaction
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a statement on Monday while on a state visit in Australia, urging the Persian Gulf 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 PGCC [Persian Gulf Cooperation Council] remain united."

Tillerson said despite the impasse, he did not expect it to have "any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism in the region or globally".

"All of those parties you mentioned have been quite unified in the fight against terrorism and the fight against Daesh, ISIL, and have expressed that most recently in the summit in Riyadh," he added.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, also called for dialogue to resolve the dispute, adding that Ankara was "saddened" by the situation.

"We see the stability in the Persian Gulf region as our own unity and solidarity," Cavusoglu told a news conference.

"Countries may of course have some issues, but dialogue must continue under every circumstance for problems to be resolved peacefully. We are saddened by the current picture and will give any support for its normalization".

Russia, meanwhile, said it was in its interest to have a "stable and peaceful" situation in the Persian Gulf.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow hopes that the diplomatic row will not affect "the common determination and resolve" in the joint fight against "international terrorism".

Sushma Swaraj, India's foreign minister, said the moves against Qatar would not impact New Delhi's ties with Doha.

"There is no challenge arising out of this for us. This is an internal matter of PGCC. Our only concern is about Indians there. We are trying to find out if any Indians are stuck there," she told reporters.

FIFA also issued a short statement saying it remains in "regular contact with Qatar" amid the growing diplomatic crisis.

Football's world governing body said it had spoken with "the Qatar 2022 Local Organizing Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup".

Financial impact

The economic fallout loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi's state-owned Etihad Airways, Dubai's Emirates Airline and budget carriers FlyDubai and AirArabia said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice.

Oil prices rose after the four countries said they would cut ties with Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas and a major seller of condensate - a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas.

The Qatari stock index sank 7.6 percent in the first hour of trade, with some of the market's top blue chips hit the hardest.
Other PGCC stock markets also fell, with Dubai losing 0.8 percent and Saudi Arabia falling 0.2 percent.