The four Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen- in addition to Egypt – have abruptly cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on the grounds of “interference in internal affairs and support for terrorism” according to official records. They have also announced the closure of the maritime and air space traffic between themselves and Qatar.
Al-Jazeera quoted Qatar’s Foreign Ministry as expressing regret over the decision to sever diplomatic relations by the Gulf states with them. “The proceedings are unjustified and based on groundless claims and allegations”. Disagreements and tensions began to escalate following statements by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad a week ago in which he said it was unwise to antagonize Iran, rejecting the principle of escalating the aggression with Tehran.
As for the reasons; according to Al-Arabiya station, Saudi Arabia explained in a statement that “the reasons are related to Saudi national security and protection from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”. Saudi Arabia explained that Qatar “has repeatedly violated its international obligations and violated the agreements it signed under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council states to stop hostilities against the Kingdom and to stand against terrorist groups and activities, the last of which was the failure in implementing the Riyadh Agreement.”
The UAE also affirmed that its decision was based on the persistence of the Qatari authorities in their policies to destabilize the region and manipulate and evade commitments and agreements. It was decided that the necessary measures be taken for the benefit of the GCC countries in general and the Qatari people in particular.
Abu Dhabi stated that it is “taking this decisive action as a result of the failure of the Qatari authorities to abide by the Riyadh Agreement for the Return of Ambassadors and its supplements of 2014 and its continuation to support, fund and sponsor terrorist and extremist organizations, primarily the Muslim Brotherhood; that as well as its ongoing work to disseminate and promote the ideology of Al-Qaeda and ISIS through its media directly and indirectly.” In turn, Bahrain attributed its decision to sever relations with Qatar to the insistence of Doha in “Continuing to destabilize the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and intervening in its internal affairs, as well as escalating the media incitement and funding of armed terrorism.” The statement also added that “ Qatar continues to fund terrorist organizations backed by Iran in sabotaging and spreading chaos in Bahrain blatantly disregarding all charters and international laws without the slightest regard to morals, ethics, law, or even consideration to the commitments to the fundamentals of GCC relations and past treaties.
As for their part, Egypt announced that the decision to sever relations comes due to the insistence of the Qatari government to take a hostile course towards Egypt and the failure of all attempts to discourage Qatar from supporting terrorist organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and harboring their leaders who have warrants concerning terrorist activities targeting Egyptian security against them; that as well as the promotion of al-Qaeda and ISIS ideology and terrorist activities in Sinaa.
What does this close off mean?
Qatar has a land border with Saudi Arabia alone, and this would make the small state in the case of a total land blockade, leading to economic paralysis of land trade, will the state be able to bear this siege? According to Sky News Arabia, the Abu Samra border crossing between Qatar and Saudi Arabia receives more than 326,000 visitors every month. Every day, between 600 and 800 trucks pass through.
As for the air lines, Qatar Airways operates 19 flights a day from Dubai International Airport, 6 from Abu Dhabi Airport, the same from Kuwait Airport, 5 from Manama, 3-5 from Jeddah and 4 from Riyadh. Figures show that Doha airport received more than 37 million passengers in 2016, an increase of about seven million passengers in 2015.
In a related context, the United Arab Emirates announced the closure of all sea and air ports within 24 hours for the transit to and from Qatar and the prevention of all Qatari transports coming and leaving for reasons of national security.