Picture: ALI KHALIL/GALLO IMAGES/AFP
Picture: ALI KHALIL/GALLO IMAGES/AFP

The Gulf nation of Qatar has been put on ice in a move which further complicates Middle East politics. Arab countries have turned on it, accusing it of supporting Islamic militants and Iran.

In a surprise decision announced on Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain effectively sealed the country off, forbidding their citizens from travelling to, residing in or passing through Qatar.

Those already there have been given 14 days to return and Qataris in the aggrieved countries have also been given 14 days to go home.

The isolation move was later supported by Yemen, Libya and the Maldives.

Qatar felt the effect of the move immediately as regional banks slowed trade, the stock market tumbled (7.3% on the day of the move) and the currency lost ground against the dollar.

Reuters reported that Iran immediately blamed Donald Trump, who visited the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last month.

"What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," tweeted Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, referring to Trump’s joining in a traditional dance with the Saudi king at the meeting, the agency reported.

Kuwait, which has maintained its ties with Qatar, is stepping in to mediate the conflict, which may escalate into a regional cold war with the Iranians on one side and the Saudis on the other.

Qatar has agreed to talks with Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Will the ice thaw or will the cold war escalate?

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