Flanagan: Immediate priority is for 'welfare of Irish citizens in Qatar'

Air services between Qatar and four countries have been suspended amid a major diplomatic row

Flanagan: Immediate priority is for 'welfare of Irish citizens in Qatar'

Parked Qatari planes in Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, Qatar. Picture by: Hadi Mizban/AP/Press Association Images

The Foreign Affairs Minister says his "immediate priority" is the welfare of Irish citizens in Qatar, amid the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the region.

Over the weekend, several nations cut their ties with Qatar, accusing the Gulf State of supporting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain yesterday announced they were withdrawing their diplomats from the country, with Saudi Arabia accusing Qatar of backing militant groups and spreading their ideology.

Yemen, Libya and the Maldives are also reported to have cut off ties with the country.

Qatar has denied any involvement in funding extremist groups.

The country's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the decision by other governments to sever ties was an "unprecedented escalation" based on "false stories and fabrications".

Kuwait is reported to be leading international efforts to mediate between the countries involved, with ruler Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah travelling to Saudi Arabia for a 'brotherly visit'.

Amid the growing crisis, people in Doha and other Qatari cities have been stocking up on supplies, as Qatar is heavily reliant on food imports.

People are seen buying food staples at a supermarket in Doha, Qatar. Picture by: @shalome05/AP/Press Association Images

Meanwhile, airline companies including Emirates, Etihad and FlyDubai have suspended flights to Qatar, as transport links are cut as a result of the intensifying dispute.

Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Donald Trump has also commented on the crisis, referencing his recent trip to Saudi Arabia:

In a statement today, Charlie Flanagan said his first concern is for the "growing and active" Irish community in Qatar.

He said: "I am aware there is some concern about air connectivity. I am advised that Qatar Airways flights are continuing to operate and alternative flight paths are being identified where difficulties may arise in the future. A direct flight between Qatar and Ireland is due to commence later this month.

"Ireland is working closely with our EU partners to protect the interests of EU citizens in the region and thirteen of our partner states have embassies on the ground in Qatar," he added.

Ireland's embassy in the United Arab Emirates covers Qatar, and Minister Flanagan has said they are "closely monitoring the developing situation".

Vincent Durac, lecturer in Middle East Politics at UCD, spoke to High Noon about the current situation.

He explained: "Qatari options, if Saudi airspace is closed, become limited. They're not non-existent, obviously, and almost certainly they'll be re-routing over Turkey and all sort of other responses and improvisations.

"It does signify the extent to which this is a very significant shutdown - and perhaps more importantly, Qatar imports 40% of its food from Saudi Arabia, improbable as that might sound."

He added: "It's laughable that Saudi Arabia is accusing Qatar of either harbouring or promoting radical Islamism or terrorism, when they are at the very least equally complicit."