Bahrain blasts Qatar over stranded nationals
LONDON - Relations between GCC states Qatar and Bahrain eroded further over Doha’s handling of the transportation of Bahraini nationals back to their country during the coronavirus outbreak.
On March 28, Qatar's Government Communications Office announced that Bahrain had rejected a Qatari offer to "fly the Bahraini citizens on a private charter flight to Bahrain at no cost to the individuals or the government of Bahrain."
Feeling that Qatar was using the coronavirus pandemic to improve its image regionally and internationally at the expense of Bahrain, authorities in Manama scheduled a flight on March 29 to return 31 citizens stranded in Doha.
"Qatar's interference in the issue of the stranded citizens aims to offend Bahrain," former Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said on his official Twitter account.
"What Qatar has done is reprehensible and requires a clear international position against it. Doha should stop using a humanitarian issue such as the Covid-19 pandemic in its plans and ongoing conspiracies against countries and peoples," Al Khalifa said in a follow-up tweet.
According to Qatari officials, the Bahraini nationals had arrived in Doha from Iran on March 27, and they could not return to their country as there were no direct flights between Qatar and Bahrain.
Bahrain is part of an Arab quartet of countries that severed ties with Qatar in 2017.
Along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, Bahrain imposed a boycott on Qatar over accusations it was funding radical Islamist groups and fostering close ties with Iran at the expense of its neighbouring countries.
The quartet issued a list of demands for Qatar to comply with in order to normalise relations, which included shutting down its Al Jazeera TV network and scaling down relations with Tehran.
Doha responded by working even more closely with Iran and expanding ties with the Muslim Brotherhood-friendly government in Turkey.
Bahrain has currently recorded 515 coronavirus infections and four deaths, while Qatar has reported 693 Covid-19 cases and one death.