Qatar denounces 'unjustified' cut of diplomatic ties by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain

Qatar says it has been the victim of a 'campaign of lies' designed to destabilise the region

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The Independent Online

Qatar has hit out at the decision of five Arab nations to cut military and diplomatic ties with the country, saying there is "no legitimate justification" for the move.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Qatar said it had been the victim of a "campaign of lies" designed to destabilise the region, hours after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE declared they would be severing all ties.

Qatar said the decision was a "violation of its sovereignty", and promised its own citizens that the row will not be allowed to affect them. 

But the move effectively cuts off Qatar from the outside world, with the peninsular nation lying off the Saudi mainland, and analysts said such a move could have lasting economic damage. 

Emirates, the major international airline based in Dubai, announced it would suspend Qatar flights starting from Tuesday. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said it too would suspend flights to Qatar "until further notice."

It wasn't immediately clear how the announcement would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region's major long-haul airlines, which routinely flies through Saudi airspace.

Yemen's internationally recognised government also cut ties with Qatar later on Monday, accusing it of working with its enemies in the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported.

It welcomed the fact that the Saudi-led coalition had removed Qatar from its ranks as part of the severing of ties earlier on Monday. Qatar has been providing military aircraft in the fight against the Houthis for more than two years.

"Qatar's practices of dealing with the (Houthi) coup militias and supporting extremist groups became clear," the Yemeni government said in a statement. 

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf's Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar's state-run news agency.

A report was published online with comments supposedly from the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, praising Israel and Iran and criticising the country's Sunni Arab neighbours.

A statement from Doha issued on Wednesday said that the Qatar News Agency website was hacked by an “unknown entity” and that “a false statement attributed to His Highness has been published”.

The five Arab neighbours said their decision to cut ties with Qatar went beyond last week's "fake news" row. They accused the country of supporting terrorist groups, including Isis - a claim Qatar has denied.

Saudi Arabia said it took the decision to cut diplomatic ties due to Qatar's "embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region" including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Bahrain blamed Qatar's "media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain" for its decision.

Qatar may deny the quotes attributed to its Emir Thani, but it does not deny reports that Mr Thani called Iranian President Hasan Rouhani on 27 May to congratulate him on his re-election.

It has been interpreted as an overt challenge to Saudi Arabia's efforts to corral all its Sunni Arab neighbours against Shia Iran, which it sees as its greatest threat in the region.

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