Qatar: No legitimate justification’ for cutting diplomatic ties

Qatar pledged to stick by the principles of the Gulf Cooperation Council despite an unprecedented diplomatic spat.

There is “no legitimate justification” for the suspension of diplomatic ties with Qatar, the Qatari government said in a statement on Monday, stressing that it would continue to abide by the principles of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) agreement.

The decision to cut relations with Qatar was based on “allegations, fabrications and lies” perpetuated by “a wide and unjust media campaign” that sought to undermine the state’s sovereignty, the ministerial statement said.

“It was clear from the outset that the aim of the media campaign, the decision to cut off diplomatic ties and close the border is to exert pressure on the state of Qatar to give up its national sovereignty, independent policies and decisions, which were based primarily on protecting the interest of its people,” said the statement.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt had cut ties with Qatar earlier on Monday, accusing it of supporting extremism.

Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen and the Maldives joined in severing relations with gas-rich state, with Riyadh accusing Doha of supporting “terrorists” – claims strongly denied by Qatar.

The severing of ties by Saudi Arabia included closing the border and suspending flights to Qatar.

Doha vowed that the measures would not “affect the lives of citizens and residents”.

Many flights will continue as usual, except for those affected by the ban declared by the countries who have closed their borders, the statement said, adding that maritime borders will remain open for imports.

“The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of [Qatar’s] sovereignty as a state,” the statement concluded.

Earlier on Monday, Qatar’s foreign ministry released a statement expressing “great surprise” at the decisions taken by a number of Gulf states.

“It is clear that the media campaign against Qatar has failed, especially in Gulf nations, which explains this escalation,” the statement said, “the fabrication” of a media crisis used to increase pressure against it is evidence that there are “no legitimate causes to take the decision to cut ties”.

“The goal is clear, enforcing guardianship over our country which is a blatant violation of our sovereignty, which is completely unacceptable. The statement released by the three GCC nations makes it clear that the relentless fabricated media campaign against Qatar was pre-planned.”

The crisis followed weeks of rising tensions between Doha and its neighbours, including Qatari accusations of a concerted media campaign against it following the hacking of the Qatar News Agency.

What does ‘severing ties’ with Qatar mean?

Following more than two weeks of brewing tension, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab nations have officially cut ties with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates as well as Egypt and a number of other Arab nations cut ties with Qatar on Monday, over accusations it supports terrorism, in an unprecedented regional spat that has brewed since comments were falsely attributed to Doha’s emir two weeks ago.

A media campaign, which appears to have been co-ordinated by authorities at the highest levels, has been building against Qatar since its state media was hacked and bogus statements published.

Despite Qatar’s rejection of the allegations, neighbouring Gulf states have imposed a round of measures to put pressure on Doha:

– Immediately cutting diplomatic ties with Doha, with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates ordering Qatari diplomats to leave within 48 hours.

This is a first since 2014, when Gulf countries recalled their ambassadors from Doha, ostensibly over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

– Closing air space and maritime territories in the three countries to Qatari flights and shipments, and suspending air and sea links with Doha within 24 hours.

UAE carriers Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia, as well as Saudi Airlines, have said they will halt flights to and from Doha starting from Tuesday morning.

– The three Gulf states have banned their citizens from travelling to Qatar.

– Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have also ordered Qatari citizens – visitors and residents – to leave within 14 days.

This measure goes against a Gulf Cooperation Council agreement on equal rights of movement and residency for all citizens of its member states.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are all members of the GCC.

– Saudi Arabia has closed its border with Qatar, effectively blocking food and other supplies exported by land to Qatar.

– Qatari pilgrims will still be allowed travel to Saudi Arabia to visit Islam’s holiest sites, but they will be the only Qataris allowed in.