Saturday 24 March 2018

Several Arab nations sever ties with Qatar amid concerns the country is supporting extremism

A Qatari woman walks in front of the city skyline in Doha after four Arab countries severed ties with their neighbour (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
A Qatari woman walks in front of the city skyline in Doha after four Arab countries severed ties with their neighbour (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Several Arab nations have cut diplomatic ties to Qatar, further deepening a rift between Gulf Arab nations over the country's support for Islamist groups.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced on Monday they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar, a natural gas-rich nation that is hosting the 2022 World Cup.

Saudi Arabia said Qatari troops would be pulled from its continuing war in Yemen.

The four nations also said they planned to cut air and sea traffic to the peninsular country.

It was not immediately clear how that would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region's major long-haul carriers.

Qatar said it was facing a campaign of lies and fabrications aimed at putting the Gulf Arab state under guardianship.

"The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications," the Qatari foreign ministry said.

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.

Bahrain blamed Qatar's "media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain" for its decision.

The decision comes after Qatar claimed in late May that hackers took over the site of its state-run news agency and published what it called fake comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel.

Its Gulf Arab neighbours responded with anger, blocking Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad said it was suspending flights to Qatar amid the growing rift.

The UAE flag carrier said on its website its last flights "until further notice" would leave early on Tuesday.

Etihad gave no reason for the decision.

Meanwhile, 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 militas 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

AP and Reuters

Press Association

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