One of the rival governments to Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) also has cut its ties with the small Kingdom of Qatar, its leadership announced on Monday.
The power centers based in Tobruk and Bayda have followed the lead of Egypt, which is closely aligned with Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and his eastern political allies, in cutting diplomatic ties.
The decision followed the news early Monday that Bahrain, along with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, had broken off ties with Qatar over its alleged role in supporting terrorists and extremism; the Maldives shortly followed suit. The regional powers closed borders, sealed off air routes and halted shipping, isolating their Arabian Gulf neighbor in one of the worst diplomatic crises in years.
Qatari diplomats and citizens are being expelled from the aligned Gulf States, although the BBC reports that Muslims planning to travel to Mecca on a haj pilgrimage will still be permitted entry from Qatar.
Meanwhile, the GNA has not severed ties with Qatar, and the decision of eastern Libyan authorities with close ties to the regional actors was viewed as largely symbolic. It does follow several weeks of escalating tensions, including the GNA’s decision last week to shut down influential extremist cleric Sadiq al-Ghariani – believed to be funded by Qataris – who has repeatedly called for attacks against both the GNA and the LNA. Ghariani also publicly opposes any agreement between the GNA and Haftar.
“Some Libyans called Ghariani as the Mufti of Qatar due to his constant justifications and defenses regarding Doha’s intervention in the Libyan conflict and its unlimited support for extremist militias,” said Al Arabiya news.
In Libya, Qatar is accused of supporting Ansar al-Sharia, among other armed groups, and Ghariani is believed to have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood organization targeted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On the other hand, Qatar has said it backs the GNA and the leadership of Fayez Al-Sarraj.
Qatar’s role in helping to remove the late Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has remained a point of contention since 2011, and at times been viewed as “interference” that has prevented Libya’s stabilization.
Image: Government of Qatar