Saudi Arabia, Egypt and several Arab nations have ended diplomatic relations with their Gulf neighbor, Qatar.
The move follows criticism over Qatar’s support of what many Arab nations consider terrorist organizations. Adding to the conflict is Qatar’s close ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s rival.
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, the Maldives and a government group in Libya also ended diplomatic relations with Qatar on Monday.
The state-owned Saudi Press Agency said Qatar supports “terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, and al-Qaida.”
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said the kingdom is facing a campaign based on “fabrications,” or false stories. The goal, the ministry said, is to “cause damage” to Qatar.
The conflict between Qatar and other Arab nations grew in recent weeks, when Qatar officials said its state-run news agency and Twitter account had been hacked. Officials said the result was the publishing of a fake, or untrue, news story.
The story said Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had called Iran “a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored.”
State-supported media in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries continued to report the story, despite protests from Qatar that it was false.
Small country with large reach
Qatar has only about 2.3 million people, but is the world’s largest producer of liquefied natural gas. It shares a big underwater field with Iran.
Qatar is home to the Al Jazeera international news network. Its reporting of protests in Cairo was credited with helping the Muslim Brotherhood win power in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood government was then removed by Egyptian military.
Like other Gulf nations, Qatar is an American ally. The United States has an air base in Qatar used for air attacks against Islamic State militants.
U.S. and others trying to solve dispute
The pulling of diplomatic relations follows a visit to Saudi Arabia last month by American President Donald Trump. Trump told Gulf leaders that he strongly supports Saudi Arabia’s efforts against both Iran and against Islamic militant groups.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Qatar and the other Gulf states to end the dispute. He made the comments in Australia, where he is attending an international meeting. He offered U.S. help in finding a solution.
Also on Monday, Turkish officials said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is working to end the diplomatic crisis. The Associated Press reported that the Turkish president had spoken by telephone with Gulf leaders.
Two other Gulf nations, Kuwait and Oman, still have diplomatic relations with Qatar. Officials from the two countries are meeting separately with officials of Saudi Arabia and Qatar late on Monday.
Effects felt immediately
The effect of the break in diplomatic relations was felt almost immediately in Qatar.
Qatar Airways was banned from Saudi airspace. And the United Arab Emirates stopped air service to Qatar by its three airline carriers.
Qatar imports almost all of its food. Forty percent of the food comes from Saudi Arabia. There were long lines to buy food at markets in Qatar on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Ed Yeranian reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English, with extra reporting from The Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
sectarian - adj. relating to religious or political sects and the differences between them
disturb - v. interrupt or make more difficult
stability - n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change
region - n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way
affiliate - n. an organization that is connected to a larger organization
allied - adj. joined in a relationship in which people, groups or countries agree to work together
hack - v. to secretly get access to the files on a computer or network in order to get information and/or cause damage