Qatar cut adrift by Arab neighbours in row over terror support

Ebony Scott
June 6, 2017

US officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia's decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the current and former officials said.

Iran - long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move - immediately blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh. Egypt's Foreign Ministry accused Qatar of taking an "antagonist approach" toward Cairo and said "all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed".

Egypt and Saudi Arabia closed their airspace and sea traffic to Qatar - a decision that targets Qatar Airways, one of the region's busiest carriers.

A spokesperson for FIFA said world football's governing body " is in regular contact" with the tournament's organising committee but declined to comment any further. Many Gulf airports, including in Qatar, are major hubs for global connecting flights.

Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large US military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants.

Doha said hackers were behind the release of false remarks attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani published on the website of its national news agency. Trade sources pointed to the likelihood of shortages growing in Qatar until the crisis eased.

Traders startled by the rapid developments are also closely watching any disruptions to natural gas supplies from Qatar to the UAE and Oman.

The call was a clear, public rebuttal of Saudi Arabia's efforts to force Qatar to fall in line against the Shiite-ruled nation, which the Sunni kingdom sees as its No. 1 enemy and a threat to regional stability.

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"Qatar has long had an independent streak that's led to resentment from its neighbours", notably Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, and particularly over Qatar's ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, Baron said.

Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on retreat in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president.

Qatar backed Morsi, in a dispute that led Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha for several months in 2014.

Further, Qatar's willingness to welcome organizations such as Hamas, which Washington brands a terrorist group, and the Taliban, which has fought USA forces in Afghanistan for more than 15 years, allows contacts with such groups when needed. Western officials also have accused Qatar of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists like al-Qaida's branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

Asian stocks retreated on Tuesday after Wall Street's stumble overnight, while oil inched up from the previous day losses as lower Libyan oil production assuaged concerns that the severing of ties with Qatar by other Arab states could impede a deal to cut crude output.

"Now is a time that we should be more united than ever", said Aamer Hassan, a Canadian living in Qatar.

"What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance", tweeted Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, referring to Trump's joining in a traditional dance with the Saudi king at the meeting. "Our relationship is extremely good".

Other reports by GizPress

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