World, Middle East

Qatar, Saudi Arabia agree to reopen airspace, borders

Development marks breakthrough in efforts to end diplomatic crisis persisting since 2017

04.01.2021
Qatar, Saudi Arabia agree to reopen airspace, borders

DOHA, Qatar

After a feud of more than three years, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to reopen their airspace and borders starting tonight, Kuwait’s foreign minister announced on Monday.

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah spoke to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman over the phone to discuss the matter, according to Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah.

He said the leaders agreed to address all related issues during a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit set to kick off in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday.

Notably, the Kuwaiti emir will take part in the council’s 41st summit in his first trip abroad since he took the post on Sept. 30, the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said.

In a related development, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "reasserted that the upcoming GCC Summit shall be a summit to close the ranks and unify the stance and to enhance the march of the good and prosperity," the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Tuesday's summit is expected to witness the signing of a deal for Qatari reconciliation with the boycotting countries, or with Riyadh alone as a first step.

In the first reaction from the UAE, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash called the event in Riyadh “a historic summit par excellence.”

He said regional powers are keen to “restore Gulf cohesion” and that ensuring the “security, stability and prosperity of our countries and peoples is the first priority.” 

“We have more work [to do] and we are in the right direction,” said Gargash.

The UAE has not yet confirmed its level of representation at the summit, while the rulers of Bahrain and Oman have confirmed they will not be attending. 

Delegations of both countries will be led by senior officials.

Monday’s developments mark a breakthrough in efforts to end a diplomatic crisis that has seen Qatar facing a blockade by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt since June 2017.

Accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs, the four countries cut ties with Doha and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on the country. 

Qatar, with the support of Turkey, consistently denied the charges and voiced readiness for dialogue to end the impasse.

* Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

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