Egypt, Arab states consider next step on Qatar

Dina Ezzat , Monday 5 Jun 2017

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and the government of eastern Libya announced severing diplomatic relations with Qatar

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (L) stands with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during Arab-US Islamic Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Photo Courtesy of Spokesman of Egyptian Presidency Facebook page)

Informed government sources in Cairo told Ahram Online on Monday that the decision by Egypt to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar might be the start of further measures that will be taken against Doha in coordination with other Arab countries.

“Qatar has gone too far with its regional games, and the time has come to send a clear message to Doha that it cannot go on with its regional policies without having to face the consequences,” said one source who asked not to be identified.

A senior Egyptian government source says that “all options are open; we are currently thinking it through,” and further meetings and consultations among Arab countries are underway to decide the next move.

Early on Monday, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and the government of eastern Libya announced severing diplomatic relations with Qatar.

The move came over a week after Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi announced a decision to block several satellite channels, websites and newspapers funded by or based in Qatar.

The three countries said that these channels, websites and newspapers are involved in promoting terror and inciting political instability.

One day earlier, the Qatari national news agency and state-run Qatari TV reported statements attributed to the Emir of Qatar suggesting the involvement of Saudi and Emirati leaders in illicit regional deals with the United States.

However, Doha said the statements were fabricated and published by the national news agency when its website was temporarily hacked.

An intensive anti-Qatari media campaign has since been adopted on Al-Arabiya, a mega satellite channel run by Saudi Arabia, and the UAE's Sky News Arabia satellite channel.

Qatar has also faced criticism on Egyptian and Bahraini TV channels, both state-run and private, for its “attempts to interfere in the internal affairs” of other Arab countries – mostly on behalf of other forces, especially Iran.

Egypt has long criticised Qatar for hosting Muslim Brotherhood leaers and giving them access to media outlets.

Informed regional diplomatic sources told Ahram Online that it was this “Qatari interference in the internal affairs of other Arab countries” that has prompted the moves against Qatari, starting with the blocking of channels, newspapers and websites and culminating in the severing of diplomatic relations.

According to one informed official source, Egypt provided both Saudi Arabia and the UAE upon the convocation of the US-Arab Islamic Summit in Riyadh last month, with solid information to support the point it has long been arguing that Qatar has a “destructive role in playing political games to destabilise Arab states.”

Arab diplomatic sources said that a mediation attempt by Kuwait failed to resolve the matter, as Qatar declined to fully comply with specific demands put forward by Saudi Arabia, including the handing over of wanted activists and the freezing of relevant bank accounts.

Official sources in Cairo say that the move against Doha is overdue, and that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi made it clear in his speech at the Riyadh summit that the time has come for the countries involved in supporting terror to be named and shamed.

Cairo has announced that it informed the ambassador of Qatar that he needs to leave Egypt within 48 hours.

Egypt has not had an ambassador in Doha for three years, since it recalled its ambassador in protest of “Qatari allegations against Egypt.”

According to political scientist Mostafa Kamel El-Sayed, today’s development falls within the context the US administration's intolerance of all Islamist movements, including Hamas and Hezbollah, that have the support of Qatar.

El-Sayed adds that the move also comes due to Saudi Arabia's unwillingness to allow any regional support for its political arch-enemy Iran.

El-Sayed argues that Qatar must have seen the move coming since the Riyadh summit, where there was a clear agreement between the Trump administration and leading regional powers that this is not the time to have a good rapport with Iran, or to allow the support of Islamist movements, particularly those that Israel is at odds with.

It is also clear, El-Sayed added, that Riyadh, now with the support of Washington, is not willing to accept further military loss, either in Yemen or Syria, to militant groups that Qatar and Iran “supposedly support.”

El-Sayed argued that “the time has come for Qatar to reconsider” playing the take-it-to-the-edge diplomacy.

“I am not sure how Doha would handle the absolute boycott that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi imposed. I think it will have to backtrack on some things to accommodate its influential Gulf neighbours,” he said.

El-Sayed added that Qatar would also have to take into consideration the position of the US administration “given the Qatari keenness to keep the US military base” in Al-Attid.

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