FAST FACTS

  • Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar
  • Arab states halt air traffic with Qatar, Saudi closes border
  • Qatar says measures are a violation of its sovereignty
  • Qatar accuses Saudi of trying to impose guardianship

Qatar said there is “no legitimate justification” for several nations cutting diplomatic ties after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives announced they would suspend relations with the Gulf state.

The Saudi kingdom made the announcement via its state-run Saudi Press Agency early on Monday, saying it was taking action for what it called the protection of national security.

The news agency released a statement in which it accused Qatar of “harbouring a multitude of terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to create instability in the region”.

Reacting to the fallout, Qatar explained that the decision was in “violation of its sovereignty,” vowing to its citizens and the hundreds of thousands of residents that the measures would not affect them.

“The measures are unjustified and are based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact,” the statement said, adding that the decisions would “not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents”.

“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,” it added.

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Qatar’s foreign ministry made the statement hours after the Saudi announcements – but before Yemen’s internationally backed government, which no longer holds its capital and large portions of the country.

Libya’s out of mandate Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni later joined the Arab nations in saying they too would cut ties.

As part of the measures, Saudi Arabia said it would pull Qatari support from the Yemen war.

Airspace and sea traffic would also be affected, with major Saudi and UAE-based airlines announcing they would stop flying to Doha.

Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national carrier, said it would suspend flights to and from Qatar starting Tuesday. Emirates, a Dubai-based airline, and FlyDubai, the emirate’s budget airline, quickly followed suit.

It was unclear how other airlines would react.

Saudi Arabia had called on “brotherly” countries to join its measures against Qatar.

Pakistan was the first country to say that it would not sever ties with Doha.

The announcements roiled financial markets, with the price of oil surging and Qatari stocks and shares falling.

“This is the most serious political crisis in the region in years,” said Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera’s senior Middle East correspondent. “There are two aspects here, political and economic, to put more pressure on Qatar.

“The official statement here in Qatar is basically that they view [the fallout] as part of coordinated effort to further undermine Qatar.

“It will ultimately have to be solved at the diplomatic level.”

US, Iranian reactions

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a statement on Monday while on state visit in Australia, urging the Gulf states to stay united.

“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.”

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Tillerson said despite the impasse, he did not expect it to have “any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism in the region or globally”.

“All of those parties you mentioned have been quite unified in the fight against terrorism and the fight against Daesh, ISIS, and have expressed that most recently in the summit in Riyadh,” he added, using alternative names for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

A senior Iranian official said the measures by the Arab nations would not help end the crisis in the Middle East.

“The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders … is not a way to resolve crisis … As I said before, aggression and occupation will have no result but instability,” Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted, referring to the coalition’s involvement in Yemen.

Hacking scandal

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiralled since.

Following the hacking on Tuesday, comments falsely attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, were broadcast in Qatar.

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Qatar’s government categorically denied that the comments, in which the country’s leader expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel – while suggesting that US President Donald Trump may not last in power, were ever made.

“There are international laws governing such crimes, especially the cyberattack. [The hackers] will be prosecuted according to the law,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday.

UAE-based Sky News Arabia and Al Arabiya kept running the discredited story, despite the Qatari denials.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies