Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE sever ties to Qatar over 'terrorism'

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and the Maldives joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt in severing relations with gas-rich Qatar, with Riyadh accusing Doha of supporting groups, including some backed by Iran, "that aim to destabilise the region".

Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and is home to some 10,000 American troops, criticized the move as a "violation of its sovereignty".

Saudi Arabia also closed its borders with Qatar, effectively blocking food and other supplies exported by land to Qatar.

The row has been simmering for some years over Qatar's alleged funding for and support of several Islamic groups, notably Islamic State and the widely outlawed Moslem Brotherhood; the latter favors the overthrow of several hereditary rulers.

In a major diplomatic crisis in the Arab region, many countries today cut their ties with Qatar blaming the latter of extending support to extremists.

The Qatari statement said Abadi promised to accept a reciprocal invitation to visit Qatar "in the coming period", while adding that the two countries were working to re-establish an Qatari embassy in Iraq.

The countries all ordered their citizens out of Qatar and gave Qataris overseas 14 days to return home to their peninsular nation, whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia. The Qatar Stock Exchange fell more than 7 per cent.

"It seems that the Saudis and Emiratis feel emboldened by the alignment of their regional interests - toward Iran and Islamism - with the Trump administration", Gulf analyst Kristian Ulrichsen told Reuters on Monday.

However, the Saudi government said it will not disallow Qatari pilgrims from visiting Mecca. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj over the current "geo-political situation" brewing in the Middle East, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has stated that he extends his full support to the Centre on the steps they take in the matter. "As instructed by the UAE government, Emirates will suspend its flights to and from Doha, starting from the morning of June 6, until further notice".

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The UAE's foreign ministry says it is supportive of the statements issued by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, while affirming its "full commitment and full support" for the GCC.

Qatar's main Hamad International Airport, for example, served around 9.8 million passengers in January-March, according to its website.

How severe the impact will be on Qatar, which hosts the region's main US military base used to launch strikes on the Islamic State group, depends on what further measures will be taken. It wasn't clear if the decision would affect American military operations.

"We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences".

Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at London's Chatham House, said the renewed tensions were not clearly linked to "something new that Qatar has done".

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia called on global companies to avoid Qatar, raising the prospect that it might try to make foreign firms choose between doing business in Qatar and obtaining access to the much bigger Saudi economy. Eight months later, they returned their ambassadors as Qatar forced some Brotherhood members to leave the country and quieted others.

Qatar denies it supports terrorist groups in Syria or elsewhere, despite aggressive efforts to back Sunni rebel groups fighting to oust the Syrian government. However, it remains a key patron of the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Qatar Airways does not break down revenue figures for the Gulf region.

Last week, the Qatari emir travelled to Kuwait to meet Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in what was widely seen as an attempt at mediation by the Kuwaitis.

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