Monday, June 5, 2017

5 countries cut ties with Qatar

(Doha) Saudi Arabia, Egypt and three other Middle Eastern countries have severed ties with Qatar. The dispute is over accusations by the five countries that Qatar has supported terrorist groups. The nations are pulling their diplomats, closing borders and cutting off air and sea traffic with Qatar.

The official justification was Qatar’s support for terrorism, including ISIS, but regional tensions and growing divisions within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) appear to be the real reasons for the sudden split. This has resulted in the following actions:
  • The UAE and Egypt have given Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave both countries
  • Airlines from many of the affected countries, including EgyptAir, Etihad Airways and Emirates, said they are to cancel flights to and from the Qatari capital Doha
  • The Gulf allies said they had closed their airspace to Qatar Airways, which has suspended all its flights to Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain's state news agency said it was cutting its ties because Qatar was "shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs"
  • The Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels also expelled Qatar from its alliance because of its "practices that strengthen terrorism" and its support of extremist groups
Of all the Gulf States, Qatar has perhaps the closest relationship to Iran, a country which Saudi Arabia considers its chief regional antagonist and which most of the Gulf considers a threat to regional security. Qatar and Iran cooperate somewhat over sharing the massive North Field/South Pars natural gas field, from which Qatar draws most of its natural gas exports and thus its immense wealth.

Qatar has reacted with fury, denying any support for extremists and accusing its Gulf neighbours of seeking to put the country under "guardianship". The crisis is likely to have wide-ranging consequences for Qatar and its citizens as well as the Middle East and Western interests. Qatar hosts the largest US airbase in the region, which is crucial to the fight against Islamic State group jihadists, and is set to host the 2022 football World Cup.