Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Maldives follows Saudi Arabia, Egypt in severing ties with Qatar

The issues in the Middle East have, however, already had an impact in football circles.

Qatar hosts the largest USA airbase in the region, which is crucial to operations against Islamic State group jihadists, and is set to host the 2022 football World Cup.

Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar over its support of terrorism.

Three states have cut transport links with Qatar and given Qatari residents and visitors two weeks to leave their countries.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia club Al-Ahli have announced that they are ending their sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways. The Qatar Stock Exchange fell more than 7 percent.

"The Qatari government will take all measures necessary... to foil attempts to affect or harm Qatar's society and economy", the statement said.

Saudi Arabia has also closed its border with Qatar.

Qatar has consistently denied any support for extremists or Iran and did so again after Monday's move by its neighbours.

A spokeswoman said it was unclear if the suspension would be extended.

Doha airport, along with airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have become major hubs after Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways seized a significant chunk of transcontinental travel on routes linking Western countries with Asia and Australasia.

Bankers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE said the situation was normal and they had received no guidance from their central banks on ties.

The Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen said it had expelled Qatar from the group. It also accused Doha of supporting terrorist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Less than a month ago, US President Donald Trump visited the region to cement ties with powerhouse Saudi Arabia - the first foreign stop of his young presidency.

Qatar, however, claims that hackers took over the media outlet's website and published the comments, which it says were fake. "This by itself is a violation of its (Qatar's) sovereignty as a state", it added.

FIFA issued a short statement Monday saying it spoke with "the Qatar 2022 Local Organizing Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup". State-linked Saudi media launched an aggressive campaign accusing Qatar of supporting terrorist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State, destabilizing the region and stabbing its allies in the back.

"You have a shift in the balance of power in the Gulf now because of the new presidency: Trump is strongly opposed to political Islam and Iran", said Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

The UAE and Qatar are both members of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to which Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also belong.

Qatar had no immediate comment.

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