Saudi Arabia revoked the operating licence of Qatar Airways and ordered the airline's offices to close within 48 hours, state media reported on Tuesday, as a regional diplomatic crisis continued to escalate.
"The General Authority of Civil Aviation has decided to cancel all licenses granted to Qatar Airways and to close all of its offices in the kingdom within 48 hours," read a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
The comments followed a day of escalating tensions on Monday, which saw multiple Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, among others, severe diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged support of “terrorism”.
The unprecedented joint move by the Arab states, which followed weeks of an anti-Qatar media campaign, slapped a list of measures against Doha, including a ban on airlines travelling to and from the Gulf state.
On Monday, six airlines owned by Gulf nations or their allies cancelled flights to Qatar in the wake of the diplomatic row.
The suspension of services to Doha's Hamad International Airport by Emirates, Etihad, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Saudia, Gulf Air and EgyptAir hit thousands of passengers intending on travelling within the region.
Doha’s national airliner Qatar Airways also suspended flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in the wake of the decision.
The Gulf states ordered Qataris to leave within 14 days and banned their own citizens from travelling to the emirate.
Saudi Arabia has also closed its border with Qatar, effectively blocking food imports and a segment of the country's exports, in what has been described as a tactic to place pressure on the Gulf state.
The disruption of regular flights has raised questions about how the Gulf state will continue to sustain business links across the region.
Qatar has slammed the Arab nations’ decision to severe diplomatic ties, suggesting the joint move was pre-planned and pre-meditated.
In a statement published by Qatar's foreign ministry, authorities said the decision to cut ties with Doha "is based on baseless fabricated claims".
"Qatar has been the target of a systematic incitement campaign that promoted outright lies, which indicates that there was a prior intent to harm the state," the statement said.
"The goal is clear, enforcing guardianship over our country which is a blatant violation of our sovereignty, which is completely unacceptable. The statement released by the three GCC nations makes it clear that the relentless fabricated media campaign against Qatar was pre-planned," the statement said.
Meanwhile, reports suggest Turkey and Kuwait were attempting to mediate between the conflicting parties on Tuesday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has allegedly spoken by phone with the leaders of Qatar, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on lowering tensions.
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah is expected to arrive in Jeddah to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, before heading to Doha to liaise with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Kuwait’s conciliation efforts are based on rejecting "imposed guardianship" on Qatar, its national decisions and foreign policies, The New Arab has learned.
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