(UPDATE – 4:35 P.M.) DUBAI – Three Gulf Arab states, plus Egypt, on Monday severed their ties with the state of Qatar in a dispute over Doha’s support for Islamist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a political enemy.
They will close all ground, sea and air ports to forbid transit, state news agencies said.
However, it was not immediately clear when these measures would be implemented.
“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” the Saudi state news agency SPA said.
Oil giant Saudi Arabia said it would “begin immediate legal measures with friendly, sisterly countries and international companies to implement that measure as quickly as possible for all types of transit from and to the state of Qatar.”
It accused Qatar of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, in an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.
Qatar said it regretted this coordinated decision to cut diplomatic relations, according to Qatar-based al Jazeera TV.
“The measures are unjustified and based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact,” the network quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
Qatar said the decisions would “not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents”.
The move opened up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world, dramatically escalating a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.
The three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. Qatar was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Economic disturbances loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways said it would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice.
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.
Qatar has denied supporting terrorism or Iran in the past.
But Qatar Airways said on its official website on Monday that it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia.
The last Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha will depart as EY391 at 21:35 (local time there) on 5 June.
The last flight from Doha to Abu Dhabi will depart as EY398 at 22:50 (local time there) on 5 June.
The aircraft for these flights has been upgraded to a Boeing 777.
All customers who are booked on Etihad Airways flights to and from Doha are being provided with alternative options, including full refunds on unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternate Etihad Airways destinations.
Detailed information is available by calling the Etihad Airways Contact Centre on +971 (0) 2599 0000, or by visiting etihad.com.