Within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) a more than three-year diplomatic and economic war has raged between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has even involved the closing of borders and airspace between the two (with UAE firmly in the Saudi camp), hardening into a total economic blockade of Qatar by other members (also including Bahrain and Egypt) but the deep rift looks to have been healed this week.
The Trump administration announced an agreement is to be signed between the two former GCC allies on Tuesday, according to Reuters, which reports further that “As part of the deal, Saudi Arabia will reopen its airspace and land and sea border to Qatar as of Monday, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah said on Kuwait TV ahead of a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.” Both the United States and Kuwait have long worked to bring both sides to the table to heal the breach, which previously put the US awkwardly in the middle of two warring gulf allies.
The airspace has been closed for 3.5 years. Qatar stood accused by other members of the gulf alliance of “supporting terrorism” given its warming relations with Iran. Both the Saudis and Qataris were also eventually at odds in Syria. Both were behind the covert war to oust Assad, while eventually supporting rival jihadist factions. There were additionally severe disputes over gulf economic policy as well.
Reuters continues to detail:
Saudi state agency SPA quoted Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying the annual gathering of Gulf leaders would unite Gulf ranks “in the face of challenges facing the region.”
Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will attend, the royal court said. The U.S. official said the Saudi crown prince and Qatari emir would sign the deal.
The Gulf crisis ends:
* Saudi Arabia and Qatar will open their borders and air spaces
* The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt will lift the embargo on Qatar.
* Qatar will abandon all the lawsuits
* Kushner will attend the signing of the Gulf deal
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) January 4, 2021
The crisis which had been raging since mid-2017 effectively unraveled the GCC with many also saying Saudi Arabia’s leadership within the regional economic and political union took a deep hit.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) hailed the breakthrough of the impasse on Monday and underscored it is in “the ultimate interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and the Arab countries.”
State news agency SPA said “[The] Crown Prince 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.”
Jared Kushner ‘left Washington en route to Saudi Arabia early Monday morning’ to participate in the signing of the agreement to end the blockade of Qatar.https://t.co/iYqE8vs9lV
— Kristian Ulrichsen (@Dr_Ulrichsen) January 4, 2021
However, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt have yet to agree to lift the blockade, but are eventually expected to follow, especially given the closeness between UAE and Saudi Arabia on foreign policy matters impacting the region.
Jared Kushner is reportedly now en route to the Saudi city of al-Ula where the formal agreement to heal the dispute will be signed. It comes on the heels of a number of historic ‘normalized’ ties agreements in the region overseen by the Trump White House, most notably involving Arab countries and Israel.