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Saudi Arabia Issues Qatar Ban Amid Escalating Diplomatic Tensions

The decision, says the Gulf nation’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), will be effective immediately.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced that it has banned all Qatari aircraft from operating within its airspace and landing at any of its airports, Reuters reports. A host of other Arab nations, including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as Saudi Arabia, have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over its supposed support for the so-called Islamic State (IS). The Gulf nation’s ban is part of this severing of ties.

In a statement on its website, GACA says that the ban will be effective “immediately” and that this prohibition will apply to all commercial and private operators crossing into the nation’s airspace.

With the ban in place and some travelers now stranded, the prohibition is now having an impact on a number of regional carriers, who have had to cancel their operations within the country. The BBC has reported that, as of Tuesday, Emirates, Gulf Air and Etihad will cancel routes to and from Doha.

Likewise, Qatar Airways, the nation’s flag carrier, has canceled its Saudi-bound operations. The outlet reports that Saudi Arabia, like the UAE and Bahrain, has given all Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave the country.

The swift and sudden closure of the nation’s airspace as well as its land and sea borders is being viewed as part of the escalation of regional diplomatic tensions. While supposed Qatari links to IS have provoked the ire of other Middle Eastern nations, there is also concern over the regional role of Iran, long seen as Saudi Arabia’s rival, within the Gulf area.

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