Five Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, severed all ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the Persian Gulf nation of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region.
The five Arab states — Bahrain, Egypt Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen — not only suspended diplomatic relations but cut off all travel to and from Qatar as well. All, except for Egypt, which has thousands of people employed in Qatar, ordered their citizens to depart the tiny nation.
Meanwhile, Qatari visitors and residents were given two weeks to leave Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Qatari diplomats in Bahrain were given just 48 hours to leave their posts, according to The New York Times.
The severing of all connections by the five countries created an instant crisis for Qatar and has split open the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful nations in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia led the alliance to cut off Qatar. It accused Doha of supporting militant groups in the region, some backed by its arch rival Iran, and spreading their ideology.
“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” Saudi state news agency SPA said in a statement Monday.
Qatar denied the accusations, saying it was working to weaken the militant groups, not bolster them.
“The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement obtained by Reuters on Monday.
Iran, which has long been at odds with Saudi Arabia over supremacy in the Middle East, quickly blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for setting the stage for the escalating discord during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
“What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance,” Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted Monday, referring to a traditional ceremonial dance that took place during Trump’s inaugural foreign trip to Riyadh.
While in Saudi Arabia’s capital, the U.S. president also singled out Iran as a key source of support and funding for militant groups.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he doesn’t believe the diplomatic spat would effect the fight against Islamic militants and that the United States has urged its Gulf allies to resolve their differences. Qatar is home to the sprawling Al-Udeid Air Base that holds the forward headquarters of the U.S. Air Force Central Command, Combined Air and Space Operations Center and the 379th Air Expedition Wing, as well as some 10,000 American troops.
“I think what we’re witnessing is a growing list of disbelief in the countries for some time, and they’ve bubbled up to take action in order to have those differences addressed,” Tillerson told reporters on Monday while visiting Sydney, Australia, according to CBS News. “We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences.”