The rift between the GCC states has intensified into what has been described as its most “severe crisis” in the history of the 35-year-old organisation.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have cut ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting Islamist groups such as the Hizbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and for allegedly backing Iran. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have already cut diplomatic and consular relations, withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar, and have confirmed they will close all ground, sea and air ports.
Citizens from the three countries have been barred from travelling to Qatar, while Qatari citizens have been given 14 days to leave Saudi, UAE and Bahrain.
UAE airlines including Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia have suspended flights to and from Doha, with Qatar Airways also suspending flights to and from Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile Qatar has also been asked to leave a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Qatar has denied the accusations, stating that “the campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications.”
Taking to Twitter, UAE political commentator Sultan Al Qassemi said: “This is the most severe crisis in the GCC’s history.
“At the very least this is the beginning of the end of Al Jazeera TV network. It is also the end of the Muslim Brotherhood presence in Qatar,” he wrote. “At the very worst (and I am not wishing this and I hope it does not happen) this could escalate into a military stand off.”
The rift between the GCC states began last month after the Qatar News Agency published remarks allegedly made by Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising the GCC’s stance against Iran and expressing understanding for Hizbollah and Hamas – both of which are considered terrorist organisations by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The remarks ignited a strong response from Saudi and UAE media organisations, but Qatar quickly claimed that its news agency was hacked.
However, Saudi and the UAE remain unconvinced, with Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs taking to Twitter to say that the GCC countries are “passing through a new sharp crisis that carries within it a great danger. Fending off sedition lies in changing behaviour, building trust and regaining credibility,” he added, without mentioning Qatar by name.
While the Qatari Emir has held meetings with his Kuwaiti counterpart to mediate a solution, the situation – at this point – shows no sign of immediate change.
“Qatar for years positioned itself as a mediator of regional conflicts now it is Qatar that is in need of mediation. (Kuwait & Oman may help),” Al Qassemi said on Twitter.
He also said that the Qatar’s emir first gesture of good will could “likely be the shutting of Al Jazeera TV network entirely, which could happen in months if not weeks”. Al Jazeera is currently blocked in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“There is a precedence to this. In 2014 in order to resolve the first intra-GCC crisis, Qatar shut down Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Egypt Live),” said Al Qassemi.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (left), recently noted: “We have expressed our regrets and surprise over the escalations against Qatar. . . The massive media campaign that insulted Qatar and its leaders was unprecedented by GCC standards. We have not taken any steps in kind. We believe any issue could be solved through discussion and mutual respect”.
However, he noted; “This brings about real questions about the future of the GCC nations, which are basically one people who share the same language and have extensive family ties among its peoples. That said, however, we reject that some in the GCC are trying to impose their will on Qatar or intervene in its internal affairs.”