RIYADH: A severe complication was added to Qatar’s preparations to host the World Cup in 2022 today when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with the Gulf state, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
This was being assessed by political observers as the “the worst rift in years in the Arab world.”
Inevitably critics of the surprise award, by world football federation FIFA in 2010, of the 2022 finals will seize on the diplomatic row as an opportunity to revive old antagonisms.
FIFA says it has been in contact with the Qatar authorities but without making further comment.
Local reports referred to worried Qataris clearing supermarket and store shelves to stock up on food since the state’s only land border is with Saudi Arabia. Blockade of airspace is a major handicap to the country and its airline, Qatar Airways, which signed up last month as a long-term sponsor of the FIFA World Cup.
Other Gulf states and Egypt have already long resented Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which they regard as a dangerous political enemy.
The coordinated move, with Yemen and Libya’s eastern-based government joining in later, has also created a rift among the Arab nations themselves, many of which are in OPEC.
Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups — some backed by regional arch-rival Iran — and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.
Qatar said it was facing a campaign aimed at weakening it, denying it was interfering in the affairs of other countries. A Foreign Ministry statement said: “The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications.”
JAMES DORSEY INSIGHT: http://keirradnedge.com/2017/