Arab states sever ties with Qatar for ‘supporting terrorism’

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH / SYDNEY: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and the United Arab Emirates announced on Monday they were severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, as they accused the Gulf state of supporting terrorism.

Saudi news agency SPA said Riyadh cut diplomatic ties and closed borders with its neighbour to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

A Saudi official cited by SPA said the country decided to “sever diplomatic and consular ties with Qatar and to close all land, sea and aviation ports”.

The “decisive” measure was due to the “gross violations committed by authorities in Qatar over the past years”, the Saudi statement said, as the UAE made an announcement cutting ties.

Egypt’s foreign ministry also accused Doha of supporting ‘terrorism’ in a statement as it announced the severing of ties. The statement said all Egyptian ports and airports would be closed to Qatari vessels.

Bahrain 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”.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of working with its enemies in the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported. “Qatar’s practices of dealing with the [Houthi] coup militias and supporting extremist groups became clear,” the government said in a statement.

It added that Yemen supported a decision by a Saudi-led coalition fighting for more than two years to oust the Houthis from the capital Sanaa to remove Qatar from its ranks announced
earlier on Monday.

The Foreign minister of Libya’s eastern-based government said the country was cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar.

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.

Qatar calls Arab moves to cut ties unjustified, baseless

Qatar said it regretted a coordinated decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut diplomatic relations on Monday over Doha’s alleged support for terrorism, according to Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.

“The measures are unjustified and are based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact,” the network quoted the foreign ministry as saying. Qatar said the decisions would “not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents”.

“The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications,” AFP quoted the Qatari foreign ministry. It added that, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it was committed to its charter, respected the sovereignty of other states and did not interfere in their affairs.

Tillerson urges Gulf states to address differences, stay united

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday called on Gulf states to stay united and work out their differences after several nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.

“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.”