The diplomatic crisis between Gulf States was triggered by a dispute over a woman renewing her passport, according to Qatar’s Foreign Minister.
Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani told Qatar’s state TV that United Arab Emirates’ officials launched a media campaign against Qatar last year after the latter refused to extradite the wife of an Emirati opposition figure.
The woman and her husband had left the UAE for Qatar in 2013, before the latter moved to Britain, while the former remained in Qatar due to family reasons.
Once she attempted to renew her passport, the Emirati embassy in Qatar refused her application and filed a motion to extradite her instead.
“Prince Tamim [bin Hamad al-Thani, the current emir of Qatar] refused to extradite the woman because she was not wanted in a criminal offence, and this would be contrary to international law and the Qatari Constitution,” al-Thani said.
In June, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt decided to cut diplomatic and consular relations 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.”
The Saudi-led Arab coalition that fights against Yemen’s Houthi rebels also cut its ties with Qatar because of its backing to groups “including Al-Qaeda and Daesh [also known as the so-called Islamic State], as well as dealing with the rebel militias”, Saudi state news agency SPA said at the time.
Bahrain followed its close ally Riyadh and broke all diplomatic relations with Doha, which has long been accused of associations with Islamist groups in the region and sponsoring terrorism.
The four states vowed to stop all land, sea and air links with Qatar, and UAE-based Etihad said it would stop flights to and from Qatar from 6 June until further notice.
According to Qatar’s Foreign Minister, two months before the diplomatic crisis escalated Qatar sought an explanation for the barrage of negative media coverage coming from the UAE. However, the country was allegedly told the attacks would stop if the woman was handed over, a demand Doha refused to meet.
Al-Thani added that the UAE briefed Saudi Arabia of the rift and in a subsequent meeting with the emir, Muhammad bin Nayef, the then Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, reiterated the crisis would be resolved if the woman was extradited to the UAE.