Wednesday, March 5, 2014
S-Arabia, UAE and Bahrain withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar
Update Thursday: Also Egypt will not return its ambassador to Qatar, a move that looks to further diplomatically isolate the Gulf state on the same day that three other Arab countries withdrew their Qatari ambassadors. Nasr Kamel, an aide to Egypt's foreign ministry, said that the ambassador – who has been in Egypt since early February – will not be returned for political reasons.
Kamel said the decision was in protest over Qatari intervention in the Egypt's internal affairs and for not handing over Egyptians wanted by prosecutors on criminal charges. He added that that Qatar has been broadcasting false information regarding developments in Egypt, a reference to the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel. Egypt is currently prosecuting 20 journalists working for Al-Jazeera English, including four foreigners.(End of Update)
Saudi Arabia,the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.
Qatar's cabinet voiced "regret and surprise" at the decision by the fellow-members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, but said Doha would not pull out its own envoys and that it remained committed to GCC security and stability.
The Saudi-led trio said they had acted because Qatar failed to honor a GCC agreement signed on November 23 not to back "anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals - via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media".
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fuming especially over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule. They also resent the way Doha has sheltered influential Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera.
The GCC is a pro-Western alliance of monarchies set up in the 1980s. Kuwait and Oman did not join the diplomatic rebuke to Qatar. Kuwait's parliament speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim said he was concerned by its implications. Oman has not commented.
Saudi Arabia, the biggest GCC state by population, size and economy, has grown increasingly frustrated in recent years by the efforts of Qatar, a country of just 2 million, to leverage its large wealth from gas exports into regional clout.
Qatar's stock market tumbled 2.3 percent after Wednesday's announcement. There is significant cross-border investment in the stock markets of GCC countries by investors from other GCC nations. Saudi investors play a major role in all GCC markets.
Saudi Arabia has tried for two years to align the foreign and security policies of Sunni-ruled GCC states to combat what it sees aggression by Shi'ite Iran, its regional arch-rival.
Qatar has been a maverick in the conservative Gulf region, backing Islamist movements in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere that are viewed with suspicion or hostility by some GCC members.