This post was originally published on 5 June 2017 and the content may be outdated.
In a shocking turn of events, four major countries of the MENA region – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – have called off their diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar.
The surprising announcement came on Monday as tensions escalate in the region over accusations of Qatar supporting terrorist organisations.
- The Saudi Arabian government announced that it was severing ties with Qatar and thereby pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.
The announcement was made early on Monday via the Saudi News Agency, which also stated that the Kingdom was taking the action for the protection of national security.
Saudi also closed the border and halted air and sea traffic with Qatar, urging “all brotherly countries and companies to do the same”, Al Jazeera reported.
Saudi Arabia is the only country to have land access to Qatar and the border closure can seriously impact trade and logistic supplies.
However, Saudi Arabia said that it will continue to provide all services and facilities needed by Qatari pilgrims currently in the Kingdom.
UAE cuts air, sea movement with Qatar
The United Arab Emirates has restricted all air and sea movement with Qatar.
- Qatari citizens have been informed by the UAE that they have 14 days to leave, while citizens from Qatar have also been banned from passing through the UAE. Emiratis are now banned from visiting or even passing by Qatar by all means.
The UAE has given Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave the country after Abu Dhabi accused Doha of “supporting, funding and embracing terrorism, extremism and sectarian organisations,” state news agency WAM said.
UAE’s official news agency WAM tweeted about the move on Twitter.
Etihad suspends flights to Qatar
Etihad Airways, the UAE's flag carrier, said it would suspend flights to and from Qatar beginning Tuesday morning.
The last flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha will depart at 02:45 local time on Tuesday, the airline's spokesman said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear how Monday's announcement would affect other airlines.
Bahrain's foreign ministry issued a statement saying it would withdraw its diplomatic mission from the Qatari capital, Doha, within 48 hours and that all Qatari diplomats should leave Bahrain within the same period.
Egypt also announced the closure of its airspace and seaports for all Qatari transportation "to protect its national security", the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar form a regional alliance known as the Gulf Cooperation Council. The union is viewed as one of the most influential in the Middle East.
There was no immediate Qatari reaction to the announcements, but it has denied supporting terrorism or Iran in the past.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a statement on Monday while being on state visit in Australia, urging the Gulf states to stay united.
The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf's Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar's state-run news agency.
The hacking of the website led to the publication of false remarks by the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that purportedly had him criticising some leaders of fellow Gulf Arab states and calling for an easing of tensions with Iran.
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over the rift. However, the crisis did not see a land and sea blockade as threatened now. The crisis was resolved and the ambassadors returned to Qatar after eight months.