In what appears to be a coordinated move, foreign office officials claimed Qatar was responsible for supporting the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda “at all levels” in an unprecedented diplomatic spat for the Gulf region. The land border with Saudi Arabia has also reportedly been sealed.
In a tweet sent out early on Monday morning, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Protecting national security from threats of terrorism and extremism, Saudi Arabia has decided to sever diplomatic and consular relations with the State of Qatar.”
In a statement published by Qatar’s foreign ministry, authorities said the decision, which it claims was clearly pre-meditated, “is based on baseless fabricated claims.” “Qatar has been the target of a systematic incitement campaign that promoted outright lies which indicates that there was a prior intent to harm the state,” the statement said.
Riyadh announced on state television that Qatar would no longer participate in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, claiming Doha it had helped support its enemy, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular. The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen’s war has mostly targeted Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who are supported by Yemen’s ousted president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The crisis also comes after U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia for a summit with Arab leaders. Since the meeting, unrest in the region has grown
Saudi Arabia was the first country to break off relations at just after 3.30am GMT, followed shortly by Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. Riyadh also announced closures to Qatar’s only land border – with Saudi Arabia – and gave diplomatic staff 48 hours to leave the country.
The UAE also announced its citizens would no longer be allowed to visit Doha.
UAE state media agency said the Emirates “regretted Qatar’s policies had driven a wedge between them”, but confirmed its “respect and appreciation to our brother people”.
Monday’s diplomatic incident is the latest in a series of events related to Saudi Arabia’s opposition to Qatar’s alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, held talks with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Sunday, discussing a joint approach to fighting regional terrorism. The two ministers said they had “full compatibility of views”.
Qatar slams decisions to cut diplomatic ties
Qatar on Monday slammed the decisions of five nations to sever ties with it, saying they were ‘unjustified’ and aimed to put Doha under political ‘guardianship’. The United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Egypt announced they will be joining Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and withdrawing their diplomatic staff from Qatar, over claims that the country supported Islamist groups, earlier on Monday.
The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes. Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, FlyDubai and Saudi Arabian Airlines have suspended all flights to Qatar, after the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said they would cut all air, land and sea links with Qatar within 24 hours.
‘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. ‘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,’ Qatar added.
Iran – long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move – immediately blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh.