Coronavirus: Manama says Qatar exploited Bahrainis by transporting 31 from Iran
Manama accused Qatar on Sunday of irresponsible action by transporting Bahraini citizens from Iran to Doha, in what analysts say represents a clear violation of the procedures put in place by the World Health Organization (WHO) to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Bahrain's Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdullatif al-Zayani condemned of the “irresponsible action” taken by Qatari authorities in transporting Bahraini citizens from Iran to Doha Airport without any prior coordination with Bahrain’s authorities. Al-Zayani also criticized Qatar moving the citizens without taking the necessary precautionary measures to preserve the safety of the passengers and the aircraft crew amid the coronavirus pandemic, state news agency BNA reported.
He added that the country is continuing to evacuate citizens who wish to return to Bahrain from Iran through scheduling direct flights, while taking all the necessary measures to protect the passengers, aircraft crews and airport employees from the coronavirus.
Qatar’s government announced on Saturday that 31 Bahraini citizens had arrived to Hamad International Airport abroad a Qatar Airways flight coming from Iran, and said: “Since the Kingdom of Bahrain does not allow the passage of Qatar commercial aircraft, Qatari officials have contacted their counterparts in Bahrain to inquire about the optimal way for the Bahraini brothers to return to their homeland safely.”
Qatar added that it had offered one of its planes to transport the Bahraini citizens back to their home but that the Bahraini authorities rejected the option.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing terrorist groups by financing them and giving their ideology a platform on its state media, mainly its television channel Al Jazeera.
Bahrain’s former foreign minister and adviser to the King of Bahrain for diplomatic affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in a series of tweets: “What Qatar has done is clear and transparent, and it is interfering in the issue of stranded citizens with the aim of implicitly insulting the Kingdom of Bahrain. And the coordinated media attack that followed the statement of Qatar about Bahrain through the various Qatari platforms and its affiliates is nothing but clear evidence of their premeditated plan.”
In 2011, Bahrain accused Doha of meddling in its internal affairs and causing a sectarian rift between its Sunni and Shia populations.
“What Qatar has done is reprehensible and requires a clear international stance towards it. It (Qatar) should stop using a humanitarian issue such as the coronavirus pandemic in its plans and ongoing conspiracies against countries and nations,” Al Khalifa added.
The majority of the Bahrainis who visited Iran recently were part of the Shia population who were in the Islamic Republic for religious reasons. Iran is home to multiple Shia holy places.
Bahraini political writer Abdulla Aljenaid told Al Arabiya English: “Qatar’s actions represent a clear violation of the procedures put in place by the World Health Organization (WHO) to contain the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to interference in the sovereignty of a neighboring country and endangering the safety and security of is citizens.”
“(Qatar’s actions) perhaps provide the necessary framework to hold Qatar accountable, and Bahrain may choose the legal path in addition to the political (one) in this matter,” Aljenaid added.
Bahraini media said Qatar is fomenting unrest in the island kingdom by supporting protests and sporadic attacks against security forces by Iranian-backed militants.
Bahrain has witnessed violent riots by Iranian-backed groups.