Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain issued a statement early Wednesday announcing the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Qatar, “to protect their security and stability.”
The four countries are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic union of Gulf states that also includes Oman and Kuwait.
Tensions have risen between members of the council following the wave of protests that swept the Middle East, shifting regional alliances and creating a growing rift with Qatar, the home of Al Jazeera TV channel, whose editorial policy has been deemed offensive and agitating by other Gulf states, as well as Egypt.
The long-winded statement claimed that the withdrawal of ambassadors was a decision taken after many attempts to communicate with Qatar’s leadership.
The decision was “in line with the foundations the Gulf Cooperation Council was built on, which stated that the members of the council have to realize the importance of their joined fate, and a goal uniting their people as well as the council’s desire to accomplish coordination and cooperation between the members in all fields, and stemming from an honest desire to assert the transparency of the relations between countries of the council,” the statement asserted.
The three states claimed they exerted great efforts in communicating with Qatar to come to an agreement regarding “a plan all countries of the council should follow,” and based on foundations stated in the main guidelines of the council, “including the security agreement, and keeping with the rules of not interfering in any internal affairs of any of the members of the council directly or indirectly.”
The agreement also stressed GCC states would not support “any individuals or organizations threatening the security and stability of the members.”
The definition of interference is clarified as attempts to carry out direct security operations against a state, or attempting to politically influence decisions or support opposing media.
A meeting between leaders of the council had taken place on November 11, 2013 in the Saudi capital, Riyad, resulting in an agreement signed by the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Khalifa al-Thani.
The statement expressed disappointment that Qatar did not deliver on its share of the agreement right away.
“Three months have passed since the signing and no actions were taken to implement the plan by Qatar,” it read.
The ministers of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain were assigned to convey the severity of the situation in a region facing severe challenges and changes to Qatari leadership in mid-February. “Yet these efforts did not yield any actions from Qatar’s side to conform with any of the procedures we agreed upon in Riyad,” the statement claimed.
Egypt’s spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Badr Abdel Aaty, said in an interview on privately owned satellite channel ONtv that the Egyptian ambassador in Doha has been in Cairo on an extended vacation for the past three weeks. “Egypt is studying and assessing the situation in light of the recent developments,” he added.
In January, the Egyptian government summoned its ambassador in Qatar for talks in response to what it called “unacceptable Qatari intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs.”
The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement expressing concerns about “the increasing number of victims in protests and the mounting number of deaths in Egypt… and labeling political movements as terrorist groups,” a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by Egypt’s government in late December.
“This move reflects great disdain from neighbors regarding specific policies and interference in internal affairs,” Abdel Aaty elaborated that it also serves as an indication that “we were not late to deal with an Arab country that crossed the line with Egypt. We will not let go of our rights and we’re coordinating with our neighbors in the Gulf.”