Arab States "Unprecedentedly" Withdraw Ambassadors From Qatar After "Stormy" Meeting

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The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar after it had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. The move, unprecedented in the 30-year history of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), follows the Bahrain state minister for information Samira Rajab saying she has evidence of Qatari media provocation against her country. As Gulf News reports, Qatar has been a maverick in the region, backing Islamist groups in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East that are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by some fellow GCC members. Not a good sign for the oil-generating center of the world.

 

Via Gulf News,

The move by the three countries, conveyed in a joint statement, is unprecedented in the three-decade history of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an alliance of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Oman.

 

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The statement said GCC members had signed an agreement 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".

 

GCC foreign ministers had met in Riyadh on Tuesday to try to persuade Qatar to implement the agreement, it said. Media reports described the meeting as “stormy”.

 

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"But unfortunately, these efforts did not result in Qatar's agreement to abide by these measures, which prompted the three countries to start what they saw as necessary, to protect their security and stability, by withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar starting from today, March 5 2013," the statement said.

 

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The nations have also asked Qatar "not to support any party aiming to threaten security and stability of any GCC member," it added, citing media campaigns against them in particular.

 

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Media reports have said that Shaikh Tamim was given an ultimatum by Saudi Arabia in the November meeting in Riyadh that was facilitated by the Kuwaiti emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmed. The new emir was told to change Qatar’s ways and bring the country in line with the rest of the GCC with regards to regional issues. The GCC has in particular been concerned about Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, its close relations with Turkey, its opposition to the new regime in Egypt and its perceived support for Al Houthi rebels in Yemen.

 

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Relations between Qatar and the UAE have been rocky lately. A top UAE court on Monday sentenced Qatari national Mahmoud Al Jidah to seven years in prison followed by deportation after he was convicted with two Emiratis of raising funds for a banned local Muslim Brotherhood-linked group, Al Islah. The move was criticised by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, which is close to the government.

 

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Early in February, in a rare move for Gulf countries, the UAE announced that it had summoned Qatar’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi for remarks made by controversial Egyptian-Qatari cleric Yousef Al Qaradawi. Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, expressed the UAE Government’s “extreme resentment” over Al Qaradawi’s statement. Speaking live on Qatari state TV from a Doha mosque, Al Qaradawi criticised the UAE for supporting the current Egyptian government. He claimed that the UAE “has always been opposed to Islamic rule”.

 

We have held back so that our neighbour can clearly reject such insult, extend sufficient clarifications and guarantee that such provocation and defamation will not recur,” Gargash said then.

 

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Qatar, which used to enjoy close relations with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey and Bashar Al Assad’s Syria, has in recent years found itself isolated after relations with Hezbollah, Iran and Al Assad deteriorated. The GCC’s decision is expected to further isolate the new emir.

Arab Spring 2.0?