Kuwait's emir urges Qatar to ease tensions

Elias Hubbard
June 6, 2017

It was the first official response from Sudan after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move.

Flights of those airlines operating from Dhaka have also been suspended for an indefinite period.

Disagreements among the six GCC members have flared in the past, and tensions with Qatar could be traced to the mid-1990s when Al Jazeera television was launched from Doha, providing a platform for Arab dissidents to criticize autocratic governments in the region -except Qatar's.

It is clear that the media campaign failed to convince public opinion in the region and in the Gulf countries in particular, which explains the continued escalation. Analysts say President Donald Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia emboldened hawkish Saudi royals by positioning America squarely with Sunni Arab countries against Iran.

Qatar specifically is home to one of the largest USA military bases in the Middle East, Al Udeid Air Base, with over 11,000 US and coalition service members deployed there and more than 100 aircraft.

Qatar, home to about 10,000 US troops and the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, criticized the move as a "violation of its sovereignty". The country has only around 270,000 citizens, but is the world's biggest producer of liquefied natural gas, sharing a vast underwater field with Iran.

In a statement issued on Monday, he said he hoped that the latest diplomatic crisis with Qatar would be resolved on sound bases in the near future. It helped free members of its own royal family from captivity by Shiite militants in Iraq. The chief worry among them is the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist political group opposed to monarchical rule. Qatar also once had open ties to Israel.

The crisis pits some of the world's richest nations in a power struggle over regional dominance.

In a statement, Qatar's foreign affairs ministry "expressed deep regret over the decision of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain to close their borders and airspace and cut off diplomatic relations".

The four countries cut off ties with Qatar accusing the peninsular Arab country of supporting terrorism that is destabilising the region.

Some Gulf news coverage seemed to support regime change in Qatar, and accused its emir of holding a secret meeting with Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The host of the largest USA military base in the Middle East, Qatar is suddenly facing hostility from all of its neighbors in the GCC, centering around long-standing disputes about Qatar's lack of hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood and its state media not always towing the Saudi line on regional policy.

Saudi Arabia said it took the decision to cut diplomatic ties due to Qatar's "embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region" including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and groups supported by Iran in the kingdom's restive eastern province of Qatif.

There could be long-term economic consequences for Qatar, which would affect the millions of migrant workers and expatriates living there.

"Many of Qatar Airways' flights to southern Europe and Africa pass through Saudi Arabia", the site said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on the parties to sit down and address their differences, though he does not believe the crisis will affect the war against the Islamic State.

It said Qatari citizens had began stockpiling food and water, as the country is heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia for its food imports.

In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over that rift.

Passengers of cancelled flights wait in Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, Qatar, Monday, June 5, 2017.

Qatar denies funding extremist groups. Qatari media published a cartoon mocking Saudi King Salman for spreading "fake news".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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