Etihad, Qatar Airways suspend flight ops to deepen regional ban rift

Qatar's dispute with Arab states lifts oil prices, may impact LNG supplies

Etihad, Qatar Airways suspend flight ops to deepen regional ban rift

Egypt's foreign ministry said in a statement the country was suspending air and sea links to Qatar, citing national security.

Several Iranian news outlets and social media users have noted the increasing number of Qatar flights over Iran following the worsening of ties between Doha and four Arab states.

Gulf Arab states and Egypt have already long resented Qatar's support for extremists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which they regard as a unsafe political enemy.

The Gulf countries ordered their citizens out of Qatar and gave Qataris overseas 14 days to return home to their peninsular nation, whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia said Qatari troops in the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen would be recalled home.

Doha last month launched a probe into an alleged "hack" of state media after it said false and explosive remarks attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were published on the Qatar News Agency website following Trump's regional visit. "A coup like the one Saudi planned against Egypt's Mohammad Mursi and in the worst and least possible scenario a military attempt to occupy wealthy and strategic Qatar by Saudi alliance is possible", Said Mojtaba Mousavi, Iranian political analyst.

But for now Qatar's ruler appears unfazed. Qatar shares a massive offshore gas field with Iran.

Qatar reacted with fury, denying any support for extremists and accusing its Gulf neighbors of seeking to put the country under "guardianship".

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Riyadh has seen Teheran as an ideological as well as political adversary.

The Sunni-ruled Arab nations are unhappy with Qatar's ties to Shiite-ruled Iran.

In recent weeks, articles in the USA press have accused Qatar of such funding, prompting Doha to complain it was the target of a hostile media campaign.

Iran-long at odds with Saudi Arabia-immediately blamed US President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh.

The UAE had always been angered by Qatar's support for Islamists in the Gulf and in Libya, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt view the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat. "As I said before, aggression and occupation will have no result but instability", Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted, referring to the coalition's involvement in Yemen.

Speaking from Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered to lend U.S. support to resolving the rift through diplomacy. All countries severing ties with Qatar suspended air flights to and from the country, and Egypt ordered Qatar's ambassador to leave within 48 hours.

"There is no challenge arising out of this for us. We are trying to find out if any Indians are stuck there", she told reporters.

Dubai-based carrier Emirates said it will suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice, joining UAE-based Etihad Airways in a similar move amid a diplomatic spat between Qatar and some of its Gulf neigbhours.

The Saudi Press Agency said the Saudi government would also reach out to its allies "and start the immediate legal procedures for understanding with fraternal and friendly countries and worldwide companies to implement the same procedure as soon as possible for all means of transport to and from the State of Qatar, for reasons related to Saudi national security".

Qatar's stock market index sank 7.5 percent with some of the market's top blue chips hardest hit.

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