Dubai: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates Bahrain and Yemen severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism, opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.
The coordinated move dramatically escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.
Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. Qatar was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Economic disturbances loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways said it would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice.
Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, in an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.
“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” the Saudi state news agency SPA said.
The statement accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shia Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government said that it supports the decision by the Saudi-led coalition to end Qatar’s participation in the war on the Houthis there.
Qatar had no immediate reaction to the announcements, and Qatari officials could not be reached for comment, but it has denied supporting terrorism or Iran in the past.