Senior members of Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, who had sought refuge in Qatar, have agreed to leave the Gulf state. Doha has come under increasing pressure from its neighbors not to support the Islamist Group.
Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo in March after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE to pull their envoys from Qatar over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood
Amr Darrag (pictured) said Saturday that he and other senior members of the group would be departing Qatar, where they had been living in exile following the overthrow of Egypt's former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Darrag, a leader of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said the Gulf monarchy had asked several party members to leave.
"We wanted to avoid embarrassing Qatar," he said. "Some figureheads of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood who have been requested to relocate their headquarters outside of Qatar have agreed [to do so]."
News agency AFP said two Brotherhood officials in Qatar had confirmed Darrag's statement. Agencies also quoted reports in Egyptian newspapers on Saturday, stating Qatar had ordered seven senior Brotherhood members to leave the country within a week.
The Brotherhood's exiled leaders were welcomed in Qatar after the Egyptian military ousted Morsi in a coup in July 2013 and declared the group a terrorist organization. A subsequent crackdown saw thousands of Morsi supporters arrested and hundreds killed in street clashes with security forces.
The Brotherhood has since set up headquarters in several other countries, including Turkey, which is considered a likely relocation site.
In recent months, Qatar has come under increasing pressure from its neighbors to stop backing the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have blacklisted the Islamist group, and see it largely as a threat to the stability of their monarchies. In March, regional tensions prompted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha.
Relations between Cairo and Doha have also soured since the ousting of Morsi, who was a close ally of Qatar.
According to Andrew Hammond, an analyst with European Council on Foreign Relations, the Qatar decision to ask the Brotherhood's leaders to leave does not indicate a major change in the Gulf state's policies.
"I don't think it signals a major shift … it looks like incremental concessions to placate [Qatar's] neighbors and prevent the dispute from getting out of hand," he told AFP.
nm/sb (AFP, AP, Reuters)