Arab states accuse USA ally Qatar of supporting terror, cut diplomatic ties

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 6, 2017

Qatar has for some time considered itself a "mediator" for some of the Middle East's most enduring disputes.

Soccer's governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association said on Monday it was in "regular contact" with the organising committee of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, though it did not comment directly on the diplomatic situation involving the Gulf State.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday called on five Arab nations to work out their differences, following their leaders' decision to sever ties with the key USA ally of Qatar over its alleged support for regional militant groups, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Iran.

Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large USA military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants. If there were to be negotiations between Hamas and Israel, between Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, or between the United States and the Taliban, it would also make sense to allow Qatar to remain a sort of safe haven. Travel for Indians to Qatar is unlikely to be affected as flights from India take the Persian Gulf route to Doha. Saudi authorities banned vessels flying the Qatari flag or owned by Qatari companies or individuals, and shut down the land border through which Qatar imports food.

"I'm not doing any panic buying". The Qatar Stock Exchange fell 7 percent.

The statement accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain. A gas field off the Qatari coast, one of the world's largest, is linked to an Iranian gas field underground, and a partnership with the nation is a must for any development project.

Qatar long has faced criticism from its Arab neighbors over its support of Islamists.

Aside from these airlines, Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai said in a statement that it would also suspend flights to and from Doha from today after the UAE severed ties with Qatar. Qatar dismissed the charges as baseless, and said the Saudis are seeking to dominate their smaller neighbor.

Turkey also called for dialogue to settle the dispute and a government spokesman said President Tayyip Erdogan was working for a diplomatic solution to the rift.

The coalition accused Qatar of providing "support to (terrorist) organisations in Yemen" - the first time it has made such a claim.

Speaking in Sydney, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not expect the announcement to have "any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism".

"We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences", Mr. Tillerson said.

Yezid Sayigh, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Mr. Sayigh said that the new moves reflected a "bullishness" prompted by the Trump administration's stances - on the confrontation with Iran and on a willingness to look the other way on human rights violations.

Turkey, which enjoys friendly relations with Qatar and other Gulf countries, offered its help, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telling reporters: "We will give any kind of support for the situation to be normalised".

Tensions escalated last week after the official Qatar News Agency ran a report quoting the Emir of Qatar making favourable comments about Iran and criticising U.S. President Donald Trump's hardline policy towards Tehran. So as long as the work is continuing and pay cheques are coming in, I think we're good.

Doha denied the comments and said it had been the victim of a "shameful cybercrime".

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