Riyadh: In what could be the beginning of the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Monday announced that they were severing diplomatic ties with Qatar.
The four countries accused Doha of sponsoring terrorism and vowed to cut all air, land and sea links with Qatar within 24 hours.
Qatar on Monday slammed the decisions of three Gulf states and Egypt to sever ties with it, saying they were “unjustified” and aimed to put Doha under political “guardianship”.
“The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement, referring to the unprecedented steps taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Here is what the four countries state while cutting ties with Qatar:
Saudi Arabia: According to Saudi news agency SPA, Riyadh cut diplomatic ties and closed borders with its neighbour to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”. The “decisive” measure was due to “gross violations committed by authorities in Qatar over the past years”, the Saudi statement said.
The oil giant accused Qatar of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, in an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.
UAE: The UAE followed suit in cutting ties. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said flights would stop today after the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said they would cut all air, land and sea links with Qatar within 24 hours. Etihad, which operates four return flights to Doha daily, said the measure will be in place “until further notice”.
Egypt: Egypt`s Foreign Ministry also accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” as it announced the severing of diplomatic relations.
The statement said all Egyptian ports and airports would be closed to Qatari vessels and planes.
Bahrain: Bahrain`s news agency said the tiny kingdom was cutting ties with Doha over its insistence on “shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs”.
The Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting rebels in Yemen`s two-year war, meanwhile, said it was expelling Qatar over what it said was the country`s support for organisations including al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Doha has long faced accusations that it is a state sponsor of terror.
It has been criticised in some quarters for its support of rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Qatari individuals have also been sanctioned by the US Treasury for terror-funding activities.
In recent weeks, Qatar has been accused outright of terror funding in articles which have appeared in the American media.
It was also criticised for providing a sanctuary to former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who earlier this month used his Doha base — where he has lived in exile for several years — to launch a new policy document.
The Afghan Taliban opened an office in Doha in 2013.
Qatar, which will host the 2022 football World Cup, is a member of the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State group.
The country is also home to the Al-Udeid airbase, where the US conducts all coalition air operations for the region.
Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the US-based Baker Institute, said if Qatar’s land borders and air space were closed for any length of time “it would wreak havoc on the timeline and delivery” of the World Cup.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Sydney on Monday that the spat would not effect the fight against Islamist militants and that Washington has encouraged its Gulf allies to resolve their differences.
Oil prices rose after the moves against Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate – a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas.