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Diplomatic crisis escalates as Qatar expresses regret
Qatar said on Monday that it regretted Arab nations' decisions to sever relations, calling the actions "unjustified" and "baseless" amid an escalating diplomatic row that deepens differences between the Gulf Arab states.
Qatar's response came after Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt had announced their decision to cut diplomatic relations with Doha over accusations on "terrorism support."
A statement issued Monday by Yemen's official Saba News Agency said the decision of severing diplomatic ties with Qatar took place as a result of Qatar's clear actions and its links with the groups behind the Shiite Houthi coup.
"The Arab Republic of Egypt decided to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in light of the Gulf Arab state's persistence to take a path against Egypt, and the failure of any attempts to prevent it from supporting terrorist organizations, topped by the Muslim Brotherhood," said an Egyptian foreign ministry statement issued earlier on Monday.
The statement attributed cutting ties with Qatar to the state's promotion of extremist thoughts of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, its support for terrorist operations in Sinai, as well as its intervention in Egypt's internal affairs in a way that threatens its national security.
Earlier in the day, the official Saudi news agency said Saudi Arabia had decided to cut ties with Qatar "for protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism."
Meanwhile in a statement carried by its official news agency, Bahrain accused Qatar of backing terrorism and interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs.
The UAE also gave Qatari citizens 14 days to leave the country and asked the Qatari diplomatic mission to leave in 48 hours.
The UAE and Qatar are both members of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to which Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also belong. Founded in 1981, the GCC is a leading political and economic bloc in the Arab world.
"The GCC is going through a serious diplomatic crisis," Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on his twitter account, urging "changing behavior and building confidence" to ensure "solving the crisis" between Qatar and the other five GCC members on the issue of Iran.
Last week, the UAE and Saudi blocked the Qatari government-owned news channel Al Jazeera, and its Arabic and English websites after Qatar's state news agency QNA released a statement by Qatar's Emir Al-Thani saying Iran was an "Islamic power," a statement which Qatar later denied claiming QNA's website was "hacked."
However, state media in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said the explanation of an alleged hacking attack on QNA was "not credible."
Relations between Qatar and the other Gulf Arab states suffered an eight-month breach in 2014 over the kingdom's support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed in Egypt, is a group that is labeled a terrorist organization in the Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain.
The latest diplomatic rift came just days after the Riyadh summit, where U.S. President Donald Trump called on the Sunni Arab nations to isolate Iran and ensured his Arab allies that Iran would "never have a nuclear bomb."
The UAE and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of funding and arming Shiite Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen, where a Saudi-led pan-Arab military coalition has been fighting the Houthis in favor of the legitimate government of Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi since March 2015.
Following the decisions of the regional countries to break relations, UAE airliners Emirates, Etihad and FlyDubai have decided to suspend flights to Doha until further notice.
Analysts believe that the countries severing ties with Doha has brought into the open the conflicts within Gulf Arab states or even Middle East countries, which might further trigger regional dispute and division and jeopardize safety and stability in the area.
However, possibilities of restoring diplomatic ties between the states and Qatar cannot be ruled out as Kuwait, also a member of the GCC, had attempted to mediate in the crisis, rather than follow suit.
[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 05Jun17]
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