The economic fallout loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi’s state-owned
Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia.
Qatar’s stock market index sank 7.5 percent with some of the market’s top blue chips hardest hit.
The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled.
The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large U.S. military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes.
FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, said it remained in regular contact with Qatar, declining to elaborate.
Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the U.S.-based Baker Institute, said if Qatar’s land borders and airspace were closed for any length of time “it would wreak havoc on the timeline and delivery” of the World Cup.
“It seems that the Saudis and Emiratis feel emboldened by the alignment of their regional interests — toward Iran and Islamism — with the Trump administration,” Ulrichsen said. “(They) have decided to deal with Qatar’s alternative approach on the assumption that they will have the (Trump) administration’s backing.”
Qatar used its media and political clout to support long-repressed Islamists during the 2011 pro-democracy “Arab Spring” uprisings in several Arab countries.
Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on the backfoot in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president.
The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with the new government’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, said on its state news agency that Qatar’s policy “threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation.”
Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has called on Egyptian businessmen to withdraw their investments and halt business dealings with the Gulf state, his spokesperson told
Reuters on Monday.
Oil prices rose after the moves against Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate — a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas.