Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt say they have cut diplomatic relations and all land, sea, and air contacts with Gulf Arab country Qatar, citing “terrorism” and “flagrant violation” of international law.
The Saudis on June 5 said the move was made for the “protection of national security,” while Bahrain accused the Qataris of backing terrorism and interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs. It gave Qatari citizens 14 days to leave the country.
Two weeks earlier, the same four Arab countries banned Qatari media, as a recording emerged showing the emir of Qatar calling Iran an "Islamic power" and criticizing U.S. policy towards Tehran, the regional arch-rival of Saudi Arabia.
The official Saudi news agency said the country had decided to sever ties with Qatar "proceeding from the exercise of its sovereign right guaranteed by international law and the protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism."
Bahrain said it broke relations “on the insistence of the state of Qatar to continue destabilizing the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to intervene in its affairs.”
“[Qatar has] spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and covenants and principles of international law without regard to values, law, or morals or consideration of the principles of good neighborliness or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations and the denial of all previous commitments,” a statement read.
Egypt said it was severing ties over Qatar's support for terrorist groups, the state news agency reported.
On June 5, the U.A.E.'s national airline Etihad Airways announced that it will suspend all flights to and from Doha from June 6 until further notice.
The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Gulf states to stay united and work out their differences.
"I do not expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified - the unified - fight against terrorism in the region or globally," Tillerson told reporters in Sydney after meetings between Australian and U.S. foreign and defense ministers.
Iran's foreign ministry reacted on Monday, by calling for peaceful dialogue between the parties. Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement on the ministry's website, "Using sanctions in today's integrated world is inefficient, to be condemned and unacceptable."
A high ranking Iranian official also reacted to the news.
"The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders is over... it is not a way to resolve crisis. These countries have no other option but to start regional dialogue," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted on Monday.
"What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," he said in an apparent reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Relations have long been strained between Qatar and regional emirates and Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Bahrain and the United States.
Gulf nations see Qatar as too close to Iran and Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
The most recent dispute appeared to surface after what Qatar said were fake remarks published by hackers on the official Qatar News Agency on May 24.
The Qatari News Agency report claimed the small Persian Gulf nation had withdrawn its ambassadors from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates because of "tension" with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The fake article also quoted Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as saying Iran is an "Islamic power" and Qatar's relations with Israel are "good."
But tensions appeared to increase, nevertheless.
Al Raya, a government-owned Qatari daily, published pictures of UAE journalists it called "mercenaries."
A Saudi news website showed a cartoon of a Qatari man shaking the hand of a Gulf neighbor while stabbing him in the back with a knife.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar to protest its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group which some ruling families in the Gulf view as an threat to their rule.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, Al-Arabiya, and AFP