Saudi Arabia has threatened to block Qatar by land and sea amid a simmering row between the two Arab states over Doha’s links with the Muslim Brotherhood and the role of al-Jazeera television station.
According to a report published by US-based newspaper Huffington Post, the threats were made during a private meeting between the foreign ministers of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council states in Riyadh last week before Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain announced the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Qatar.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal reportedly said only the severance of ties with the Brotherhood, closure of al-Jazeera broadcaster and expulsion of two US think tanks – identified as Brookings Doha Center and the Rand Qatar Policy Institute — would be sufficient to prevent Qatar from “being punished.”
Qatar is reportedly not taking the threat of a sea blockade seriously, but its land border with Saudi Arabia could easily be closed by Saudi forces.
On March 7, Saudi Arabia listed Muslim Brotherhood along with several other groups as terrorist organizations. According to the new law, those who join or back the groups could face five to 30 years in jail.
The Saudi move, which was slammed by the Brotherhood, came after Egypt’s military-backed interim government decided to label the group a terrorist organization last December after the ouster of the country’s Brotherhood-backed president, Mohamed Morsi, in July.
Egypt has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being responsible for a deadly bomb attack on a police headquarters building in the Delta Nile city of Mansoura in December 2013, which left at least 15 people dead. The group has condemned the attack and denied involvement in the incident.
Following the example of neighboring Saudi Arabia, the UAE labeled Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization on March 8.
Some Arab states accuse Doha-based al-Jazeera television network of taking a pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance.