Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced Wednesday the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Qatar because Doha had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs.
The three countries, which are all part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) along with Qatar, announced the unprecedented move in a joint statement.
They said GCC members had signed a deal November 23 that included “a security agreement and a commitment to the principles that ensure non-interference in the internal affairs of any of the GCC countries, either directly or indirectly, and not to support any activity that would threaten the security and stability of any of the GCC countries from organizations or individuals, including support for hostile media.”
“Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain hoped that the agreement will be implemented, however, after more than three months after the signing of the agreement, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain feel that the State of Qatar did not take the necessary actions to put it into practice,” a statement on the Saudi Foreign Ministry Facebook page said.
“Therefore Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain regret to announce that they will take what they deem to be the appropriate steps to protect the security and stability of their nations by withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar.”
Qatar has good relations with Shiite Iran, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain view as a regional rival. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have in the past also accused Iran of supporting their Shiite communities, which are seeking more rights from the Sunni monarchies.
Qatar expressed surprise over the decision, saying it will not recall its envoys from the three countries.
Qatar’s government said it expressed “disappointment and surprise at the statement issued by the brotherly countries”.
“The moves taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain have nothing to do with their national interests nor their security and stability, but there is a difference of opinion and position on a number of issues outside the Gulf Co-operation Council.”
The statement further said that Qatar was committed to “brotherly principles concerning their brothers in the council”.
In an interview with , Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the former Qatar ambassador to the UN and US, called the decision “a big mistake”.
“It is unfortunate that some of them [GCC countries] are trying to force Qatar to take certain policies which have nothing to do with the Gulf, nothing to do with Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain.”
“The whole issue is really about Sisi,” he said, referring to the Egyptian general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who removed Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last year.
“These countries, they are supporting a coup d’etat where thousands of Egyptians are being killed in front of the whole world. And they want Qatar to support such a policy,” Khalifa said. “But we will never support any regime which kills its own people.”
“I am sure in the days after that wisdom will come and these countries will realise that trying to impose the philosophy of my way and the highway will not work with Qatar,” Khalifa added.