Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over terrorism concerns. Tensions between Qatar and its regional neighbors have escalated in recent days.

Doha Skyline 20.02.2014 (Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia made the announcement Monday via its state-run news agency, saying it had decided to break off diplomatic relations and close its border with Qatar to protect itself from “the dangers of terrorism and extremism.”

The kingdom also cut all land air and sea contacts “and urges all brotherly countries and companies to do the same,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The announcement coincided with fellow Gulf states Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates similarly cutting ties. Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said it was withdrawing its diplomatic mission from the Qatari capital Doha within 48 hours and ordered all Qatari diplomats to leave its territory. It also said it planned to stop air and sea traffic between the two countries.

Read more: Discord in the Persian Gulf: Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a statement, the ministry condemned Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain.”

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A short time later the United Arab Emirates (UAE) followed suit, accusing Qatar of “destabilizing” the region with its “support, funding and embrace of terrorist, extremist and sectarian organizations.” Egypt took the same step, saying Qatar had supported “terrorist” organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood.

There was no immediate comment from Qatar.

Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad said it is suspending flights to Qatar.
Spiralling tensions

Tensions between Qatar and other countries in the Gulf escalated in late May after an alleged hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. According to Qatari officials, hackers had published a story with fake quotes by the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in which he purportedly criticized leaders of fellow Gulf states, called for an easing of tensions with regional foe Iran, and said Qatar’s relations with Israel were “good.”

Gulf neighbors responded with anger, rejecting Qatar’s explanation and blocking Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera. The row erupted days after US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia and strongly criticized Iran while urging countries to step up their fight against Islamist militancy.

The rift has also revived a 2014 spat over Qatari support for Islamist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, and Qatar’s conciliatory line on Iran. Saudi Arabia and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha during that rift, although they returned after less than a year.

nm/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)