Several Middle eastern countries have cut their diplomatic relations to Qatar, accusing it of supporting and funding radical Islamic groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS).
Neighbours including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have closed their airspace to Qatari planes. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has said he was told during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia that Qatar was funding “radical ideology”. “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” he tweeted.
Airlines including Emirates and Etihad have been told to stop flying to Qatar. Emirates announced: “As instructed by the UAE government, Emirates will suspend its flights to and from Doha, starting from the morning of 6 June 2017, until further notice. “All customers booked on Emirates’ flights to and from Doha will be provided with alternative options, including full refunds on unused tickets and rebooking to alternate Emirates destinations.”
The fare-comparison website Skyscanner is listing complex and expensive one- and two-stop connections between Doha and Dubai, rather than the usual 70-minute hop.
Saudi Arabia’s closure of airspace to Qatari airliners planes seriously affects the airline’s connections with Africa. The overnight arrival from Johannesburg, QR1368, was routed via Oman and Iran to avoid Saudi airspace.
While as signatories to the 1945 International Air Services Transit Agreement, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE are obliged to allow overflights, the evidence from flight paths monitored by The Independent shows that Qatar Airways is avoiding their airspace.
Kuwait – one of the Gulf countries not involved in the dispute – has offered to mediate talks, and Qatar said it was receptive to dialogue. In an interview with the Al-Jazeera network, the Qatari foreign minister said Kuwait’s emir would travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for talks. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Al Jazeera that Qatar was seeking “a dialogue of openness and honesty”.
Six countries – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives – cut diplomatic ties with the country on Monday. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have given Qatari nationals two weeks to leave, and banned their own citizens from traveling to Qatar.
While the severing of ties was sudden, it has not come out of the blue, as tensions have been building for years, and particularly in recent weeks. Broadly, two key factors drove Monday’s decision: Qatar’s ties to Islamist groups, and to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.
Wealthy individuals in Qatar are believed to have made donations and the government has given money and weapons to hardline Islamist groups in Syria.