Middle East News

Gulf countries break diplomatic ties with Qatar

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Yemen and Libya are breaking diplomatic ties with Qatar, according to two statements on state media.

Six Gulf and Middle Eastern nations announced on Monday that they are severing diplomatic ties with Qatar after accusing the government of supporting terrorist groups.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia cut ties early Monday, June 5, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Egypt and Libya. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council along with Qatar.

Al Jazeera reported that the Maldives is also cutting diplomatic ties after 33 years.

The main Saudi coalition fighting in the Yemen conflict has also suspended Qatar’s participation.

Bahrain’s statement noted that the country was breaking ties with Qatar due to “the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue destabilizing the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to intervene in its affairs.” Bahrain has also closed its air and sea borders with Qatar.

UAE said it was taking measures in response to “Qatar’s continued support, funding and hosting of terror groups, primarily Islamic Brotherhood, and its sustained endeavours to promote the ideologies of Daesh and Al Qaeda across its direct and indirect media.”

Qatar citizens in Saudi Arabia have been given 14 days to leave the country and diplomats 48 hours, and Qataris will be barred from entering the UAE.

Saudi Arabia further shut down Al Jazeera’s offices in the kingdom and withdrew its license.

In a statement on Monday, the Qatari foreign ministry said the country was the victim of a coordinated disinformation campaign:

“That reasons were fabricated in order to take action against a brotherly GCC nation is clear evidence that there is no legitimate justification for such measures, which have been implemented in coordination with Egypt.

Their purpose is clearly the imposition of guardianship over Qatar, which is in itself a violation of its sovereignty, and is rejected outright.

The Qatari statement pointed out that the allegations contained in the statements by the three GCC nations announcing the severing of relations clearly confirms the existence of a planned and clandestine media campaign, which has included fabrications and fake news.”

Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Hacking and email leaks

The Associated Press reports the dispute between Qatar and the Gulf countries was prompted by a potential hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency.

Qatari authorities claimed that the May 23 story – an apparent report of a speech by Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in which he talked of his respect for Iran, support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas and ties with Israel – was published on the QNA website by a hacker.

This was followed by the release last week of leaked emails between the UAE’s US ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and senior figures in US foreign policy, including members of the Obama administration, figures at the Atlantic Council think tank, and Elliott Abrams, who was in George W. Bush’s administration and has ties to Trump administration officials.

Disruptive impacts to travel

Etihad Airways, Emirates, FlyDubai and AirArabia are suspending all fights to and from Doha, according to Al Jazeera. Qatar Airways responded by suspending flights with Saudi Arabia until further notice. Egypt on Monday announced the country would suspend any direct flights to Qatar starting on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt both stated the countries’ airspace would be closed to any flights bound from or to Qatar, and Bahrain suspended flights to and from the country. These closures could cause significant disruptions to the worldwide airspace and especially to passengers needing to take connecting flights. The closures would cut off major airport hubs in Riyadh and Dubai, forcing more lengthy or costly connections at airports further away.

Qatar is home to Qatar Airways, which uses Hamad International Airport in Doha for it’s main hub. The airport serves almost 10 million passengers per quarter.

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