UAE threatens prison, fines for Qatar support


SAUDIA ARABIA and other autocratic Sunni states have been at odds for years with the energy-rich emirate of Qatar, which hosts the largest USA air base in the Middle East.

He later tweeted: "Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"

Otaiba, one of the most powerful diplomats in Washington, figures in an unfolding regional crisis centered on USA partner nation Qatar, which hosts America's largest military base in the region.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and closed their airspace to commercial flights on Monday, in the worst split between powerful Arab states in decades.

He added that Qatar was undermining the Palestinian Authority and Egypt by supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and said stopping these policies would "contribute to stability in the Middle East".

"All these stories about Qatar financing terrorism are fabricated", Ambassador Sheikh Meshal Bin Hamad Al-Thani told CNN on "Erin Burnett OutFront" on Tuesday.

While tensions between Qatar and its Arab allies have been rising over the past few years over claims the country was funding terrorist organizations in the region, it was a news report on May 23 that sparked the latest crisis.

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Turkey, a regional powerhouse, has also called for an end to the Arab rift.

Kuwait did not join fellow Gulf countries in taking measures against Doha, and its Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah for talks to resolve the crisis.

Sabah left Tuesday night for Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman.

Local media in the countries that cut ties speculated it would be shut down in an effort by Qatar to appease its angry neighbours, but while journalists working there are rattled by the crisis, they think their station will survive.

In backing the Saudis, the president offered unconditional support for a country that has fostered the spread of Islamist extremism across the world and that has supplied numerous foot soldiers for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda - not to mention most of the 9/11 hijackers.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for Gulf unity, saying he was ready to back "all initiatives to encourage calm".

Several Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have since cut economic and political ties with the country.

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Qatar is far from the first casualty in the ongoing regional turmoil in the Middle East. Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya have become literal war zones in this battle for regional dominance. Qatar's policy of keeping open relations with Iran while opposing Iranian aggression in Yemen and Syria was also US policy until five months ago.

As the forward headquarters of US Central Command, it is seen as crucial in the US-led campaign against ISIS.

Air, land and sea blockades have also been imposed on Qatar, isolating it from the outside world.

Trump had appeared to side with Saudi Arabia and other countries against Qatar in a series of tweets Tuesday that seemed to endorse the accusation that Qatar funds terrorist groups.

In announcing it was cutting ties, Riyadh accused Doha of harbouring "terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilise the region including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (IS) and Al-Qaeda". Many residents raced to grocery stores to stock up over fears that the country, which imports around 40 percent of its food from Saudi Arabia, could be headed for trouble.

Qatar and Exxon have had development agreements for more than a decade, with Exxon helping Qatar to become the world's largest LNG exporter.

While the US military has said it wouldn't change its posture at Qatar's Al-Udeid Air Base, Mr. Trump posted a series of tweets calling into question his commitment to the peninsular nation.

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