Bahrain halts new visas for Qataris

Bahrain halts new visas for Qataris
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Dubai: Bahrain has stopped issuing new visas to Qataris, the interior ministry said late on Tuesday, in the latest salvo in a months-long feud between the energy-rich Gulf states.

The small but strategic island kingdom severed relations with Qatar in June last year at the same time as regional kingpin Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

But it had continued issuing some visas to citizens of the emirate, which lies just 40 kilometres (25 miles) away on the mainland of the Arabian Peninsula.

The ministry said only Qatari students studying in Bahrain would be exempt from the new measures, although visas already issued would remain valid.

The measures were a response to the “irresponsible actions of the Qatari authorities, who do not consider the rights of neighbouring countries or the principles of international law,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official BNA news agency.

The two sides have exchanged repeated allegations of violations of airspace or territorial waters and have launched multiple law suits through international tribunals.

Bahrain and its allies have demanded that Qatar cut its longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and take a tougher line with Shiite Iran, which they accuse of meddling in the region’s affairs.

Qatar, which is to host the finals of the next football World Cup in 2022, has insisted it has the right to conduct an independent foreign policy.

The result has been a highly fractious diplomatic and economic dispute between the Western allies that has no end in sight.