By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Susannah Cullinane, CNN,
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates have broken diplomatic relations with Qatar, rattling a powerful 36-year-old Gulf states union, over what they say is the country’s support of terrorism. Egypt has also cut off relations with the tiny Gulf state.
A statement on Saudi Arabia’s state news agency announced the move Monday morning, in order to “protect national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.” All ports of entry between the two countries would be closed, according to the statement.
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Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar form a regional alliance known as the Gulf Cooperation Council. The union is viewed as one of the most influential in the Middle East.
Kuwait and Oman remain the only GCC members to maintain ties with Qatar.
Late last month, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt blocked several Qatari media outlets, including state-funded Al Jazeera, over comments allegedly made by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Hamad Al Thani. Al Thani reportedly hailed Iran as an “Islamic power” and criticized US President Donald Trump’s policy towards Tehran.
The Emir’s comments appeared on Qatar’s official news agency, but Qatar claimed that the website was “hacked,” the report fabricated by the culprits.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are at odds over a number of regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and what Saudis see as Tehran’s growing influence in the kingdom’s sphere of influence — especially in Syria, Lebanon and neighboring Yemen.
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“There are two competing theories,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations says about the origin of the spat.
“One is that Saudi Arabia felt emboldened after Donald Trump’s visit, and Trump’s administration has had a strong stance on Iran, which is backed by Qatar.
“Another theory is that this is a product of month’s tension, all brought to a breaking point after the Qatar news agency hacking story.”
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Trump recently visited the Saudi capital and addressed 55 Muslim leaders in a landmark speech urging them to double down on efforts to combat terrorism.
Qataris given 2 week notice to leave UAE
In its statement announcing its severing of ties with Qatar, the UAE cited Qatar’s “ongoing policies that rattle the security and sovereignty of the region as well as its manipulation and evasion of its commitments and treaties.”
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.
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Bahrain’s foreign ministry issued a statement Monday saying it was suspending diplomatic relations “in order to preserve its national security.”
Qatari diplomats had 48 hours to leave the kingdom, and airspace and ports between the countries would be closed within 24 hours of Bahrain’s announcement, it said. Read full in CNN