Saudi Arabia lifts Qatar blockade

Airspace, land and sea borders between the two countries are opened
Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, and Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Amir of Qatar

AFP PHOTO/SAUDI ROYAL PALACE/BANDAR AL-JALOUD  -   Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, and Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Amir of Qatar

Saudi Arabia and Qatar reached an agreement in the last few hours to open up their airspace, land and sea borders. The Kuwaiti foreign minister, Ahmed Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah, announced that this pact had been reached with a view to opening up the air space and land and sea borders between the kingdom and the Qatari state, as of last Monday night.  

After almost four years of blockade, the Saudi kingdom has opened up access to the Gulf monarchy, according to official sources in Riyadh and confirmed by the Kuwaiti foreign minister in statements made to the Al-Jazeera channel. The details were finalised on the eve of the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which opens on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia and will be attended, for the first time in years, by the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

This day marks the start of the 41st GCC summit, which will once again bring together Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Although this session is chaired by Bahrain, the meeting will finally take place in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The main novelty of this summit will be the presence of the Qatari emir, who has not attended since 2017. 

Las banderas de los países del Consejo de Cooperación del Golfo (CCG) ondean en las calles antes de la 40ª cumbre del CCG en Riad, Arabia Saudí, el 9 de diciembre de 2019
REUTERS/AHMED YOSRI - Flags of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries fly in the streets before the 40th GCC summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 9 December 2019

Qatar was subjected to a blockade from 2017 onwards, as a result of accusations by several countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt) of supporting cross-border terrorism and the organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is described as a terrorist by several nations. Since then relations of all kinds were severed and attempts were made to isolate the country in an attempt to bring about a change in its foreign and financial policy, which had brought it closer to new partners such as Turkey and Iran, international players known for destabilising areas of the Middle East and North Africa with their belligerent stance. 

The UAE and Saudi Arabia headed the embargo on Qatar in 2017. Among the demands for lifting it, which Doha considered unacceptable, was precisely the closure of the Al-Jazeera television channel, which promoted the failed Arab Springs, and the change in its diplomatic policy.  

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi also called for an end to "interference" and "support for terrorism", in an allusion to the support that Qatar, together with Turkey, gives to political Islamism and the various branches of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Hamas in the Gaza strip.   

El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Kuwait anunció que Arabia Saudí levanta un embargo de un año a Qatar, abriendo sus fronteras aéreas y terrestres en los primeros pasos hacia el fin de la crisis del Golfo
AP/AMR NABIL - Kuwait's Foreign Ministry announced that Saudi Arabia is lifting a one-year embargo on Qatar, opening its air and land borders in the first steps towards ending the Gulf crisis

Qatar's shift in international policy following the boycott led it to strengthen its relations with Iran-whose airspace became the only outlet for Qatar Airways-and also with Turkey, which reinforced its Qatari military base instead of closing it, as demanded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  

It now appears that this trend towards Qatar may change; this change was represented by the attendance of Emir Al-Thani at the GCC summit and was confirmed by the Emirates, whose foreign ministry stated that the aim of the conclave is to restore Arab unity in the Gulf. Everything is aimed at achieving peace in the Middle East region, one of the main objectives of the latest political movements that have led to the establishment of diplomatic ties between various Arab countries such as the Emirates and Bahrain with Israel under the auspices of the United States.  

For its part, Egypt also agreed in principle to reactivate the aeronautics sector with Qatar. The implementation of the decision will depend on a series of demands from Cairo.