- In a major diplomatic breakthrough, Saudi Arabia, after a prolonged crisis, is expected to open its borders and airspace to neighboring Qatar
- A senior Trump administration official stated that Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the White House, helped negotiate the deal and was successful in making it happen
- In mid-2017, Saudi Arabia and some of its allies imposed an embargo on Qatar
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Amhad Nasser Al Sabah declared that Riyadh would open “the airspace and land and sea borders” between Saudi Arabia and Qatar “starting this evening.” Saudi attempts to isolate Qatar were reportedly expected to end on Monday.
The Kuwaiti minister also confirmed that the Kuwaiti emir had spoken with his Qatari counterpart and the crown prince of the Saudi. “The talks between Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Crown Prince, Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah of Kuwait and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar have showed that “all were keen on reunification.”
To “usher in a bright page of brotherly relations,” the three leaders are to meet and sign a declaration.
The announcement comes in advance of a meeting of Gulf leaders on Tuesday in the desert city of Al-Ula.
In mid-2017, as Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic, trade, and travel relations with Qatar, tensions between the two neighbors spilled out into the open. Also joining the blockade were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. Doha was accused by the four countries of backing radical Islamist movements and cosying up to arch-rival Iran of Saudi Arabia.
The bloc also laid down thirteen demands for Qatar, including the closure of the Al Jazeera news network and the downgrading of Iranian relations.
Qatar, which is home to the gulf’s largest US military base, said the embargo was aimed at undermining the national sovereignty of the country. The country has some 2.3 million inhabitants, the vast majority of whom are expats, and the much larger Saudi Arabia shares its single land boundary.
Kuwait has been working between the two sides as a mediator. Foreign Minister Al Sabah announced progress in December 2020 by stating that “all sides expressed their keenness for Gulf and Arab unity and stability” while discussing the issue.
Qatar said at the time that every approach should be based on mutual respect for each other.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatari Foreign Minister said, “No country is in a position to impose any demands on another country. Each country should decide its foreign policy.”
In order to achieve the compromise announced on Monday, it was not immediately clear whether Qatar accepted any of the conditions previously stated by Riyadh and its backers.
A senior White House official, however, told the Reuters news agency that Qatar would suspend blockade-related lawsuits under the new agreement. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have yet to comment on the news, but the official said it was “our expectation” that in lifting the blockade they would join Riyadh.
During his Middle East tour in early December, Qatar’s Al Thani also lauded White House senior advisor Jared Kushner for his efforts to bridge the gap.
The White House official said on Monday that Kushner helped to secure the latest deal. Kushner, who is the son-in-law of Donald Trump, the outgoing US president, reportedly traveled to Saudi Arabia to attend the signing ceremony.
The official while talking to Reuters said, “It’s just a massive breakthrough, in the region, it will lead to more stability.”
In a series of normalization agreements between Israel and many Arab states in 2020, Kushner is also said to have played an important key role. The diplomatic offensive in the Middle East could be seen as a drive by Washington to form a united front against Iran.