Qatar isolated as Gulf states cut links over terror claims

Ross Kinnaird

The statement comes after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all cut diplomatic ties Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups-some backed by regional arch-rival Iran-and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera. Authorities of Bahrain have given Qatar's citizens fourteen days to leave the country, TASS agency reported.

Earlier in the day, the official Saudi news agency said Saudi Arabia had chose to cut ties with Qatar "for protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism".

It said Qatar harbored "a number of terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (IS) and Al-Qaeda".

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, said on its state news agency that Qatar's policy "threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation".

In a shocking twist of events, five major Arab nations severed diplomatic ties to Qatar over allegations it supports ISIS and backs the agenda of Shi'ite-majority Iran.

The decision by four Arab nations to cut ties with Qatar marks the culmination of years of tension among a historically tightknit alliance of energy-rich Gulf Arab states that share borders, a common heritage and a strong alliance with Washington.

Qatari nationals are to be banned from entering the UAE, and Qatari residents of the country have been given two-week notice to leave the leave the country.

It is clear that the media campaign of fabrications has failed to sway public opinion in the region, and among Gulf countries in particular, and this explains the continued escalation against Qatar.

Qatar Airways flies to nine cities in Saudi Arabia.

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Premier UAE airlines Etihad and Emirates announced they would suspend flights to Qatar, as did budget carriers Air Arabia and FlyDubai.

Trade will also be affected between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. Iran says rising tensions among its Arab Gulf neighbours threaten the interests of everyone in the region.

The incident triggered a diplomatic row between Qatar and its neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is also shutting its border to neighboring Qatar, locking the state out of its only over-land border crossing.

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".

Last month the website of Qatar's official news agency was allegedly hacked by unknown individuals who reportedly published statements falsely attributed to its emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.

It said: "We have no further comments for the time being". However, it remains a key patron of the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip.

In a Riyadh speech, Trump urged Muslim leaders from around the world to "drive out" extremists and "terrorists", as Sunni jihadists carry out attacks in many countries.

It has been criticized for supporting rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Qatari individuals have been sanctioned by the US Treasury for terrorist-funding activities.