Thursday, March 4, 2021

Saudi ends Qatar blockade after ‘pressure from Trump White House’

The move to reopen borders comes ahead of a summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council being held in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

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Kuwait has said that Saudi Arabia is reopening its land and sea borders to Qatar in a breakthrough in a long-running dispute that has pitted Qatar against several of its Gulf neighbours.

Over three years ago, the gulf states imposed an embargo accusing Doha, the Qatari capital, of supporting terrorism.

Qatar, a tiny but immensely wealthy Gulf state, has always denied supporting jihadist militancy.

The move to reopen borders comes ahead of a summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council being held in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, reports the BBC.

The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt joined the Saudis in maintaining the diplomatic, trade and travel embargo.

The lifting of the embargo on Qatar has taken months of patient, painstaking diplomacy, mostly by Kuwait, but with increasingly urgent pressure from the White House as the Trump presidency draws to a close.

The three-and-a-half year blockade has been immensely costly not only to Qatar’s economy but also the idea of Gulf Arab unity. Qataris will not forgive or forget what they see as a stab in the back by their neighbours.

The embargo has, if anything, pushed Qatar closer to Saudi Arabia’s ideological enemies: Turkey and Iran.

Beyond the diplomatic rhetoric one country in particular – the UAE – has grave doubts that Qatar is actually going to change its ways.

While Qatar denies supporting terrorism it has supported political Islamist movements in Gaza, Libya and elsewhere, notably the transnational Muslim Brotherhood which the UAE views as a threat to its monarchy.

Mediation efforts led by Kuwait had achieved little until recently, but in the past few months there were growing signs of a face-saving resolution to a row that has harmed all of those involved.

The US administration has taken a more visible role and the senior US official said President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, would attend the signing of the agreement on Tuesday.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has accepted an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to attend the summit.

A source told the BBC that the Saudi decision to open its air space and land and sea borders was the confidence-building step needed to ensure the emir’s attendance.

“This is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had to date,” a senior Trump administration official was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

“It doesn’t mean they will love each other and be best friends, but it does mean they will be able to work together.”

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