05 June 2017
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain 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 three 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.
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 Iran-backed rebels in Yemen separately announced that Qatar was no longer welcome in the alliance.
Qatar had no immediate comment at the time of publishing.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a statement on Monday while being on state visit in Australia, urging the 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 GCC (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, ISIS, and have expressed that most recently in the summit in Riyadh,” he added, using alternative names for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiralled 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 US 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.
“There are two competing theories,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations says about the origin of the spat as per CNN on the development.
“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,” CNN reports.