World Politics

Saudi Arabia and its allies restore diplomatic ties with Qatar after three-year rift

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Key Points
  • Saudi Arabia and three Arab countries have reinstated diplomatic relations with Qatar, more than three years after severing ties with Doha.
  • Kuwait, a mediator for both sides, announced that Saudi Arabia is reopening its airspace, sea and land borders with Qatar.
  • Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel blockade on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani upon his arrival to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021.
Bandar Algaloud | Reuters

Saudi Arabia and three Arab countries have reinstated diplomatic relations with Qatar, more than three years after cutting ties with Doha.

At the annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in the ancient city of Al-Ula on Tuesday, leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the rest of the GCC member states with Egypt, pledged solidarity and signed an agreement signaling "the return of joint Gulf action to its normal course," NBC News reported.

The GCC is an economic alliance made up of six nations in the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Relations among the Arab nations soured in 2017, when Saudi Arabia and its allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel blockade on Qatar. They accused the tiny Gulf nation of supporting terrorism and of being too close to Iran, allegations that Doha has always denied.

Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the first time since the dispute erupted in 2017. He was met with a hug from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he arrived — a sign of warming relations between the two.

Kuwait, a mediator for both sides, had earlier announced that Saudi Arabia is reopening its airspace, sea and land borders with Qatar.

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The dispute isolated Qatar and plunged the region into a diplomatic crisis not seen since the 1991 war against Iraq, and exposed deep ideological differences in the region.

Qatar's emir in 2018 said the dispute was a "futile crisis," and that Qatar preserved its sovereignty despite "aggression" from its neighbors.

Saudi-owned media Al-Arabiya also reported on Tuesday that Egypt has agreed to reopen its airspace to Qatar.

The UAE's Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, attended the summit and said in a tweet that the challenges ahead require strength and cooperation in the Gulf.

Restoring diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is part of Washington's latest effort to broker deals in the Middle East. In a diplomatic win for President Donald Trump, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalized relations with Israel in 2020.

Turkey's ministry of foreign affairs on Monday welcomed the reopening of borders between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

"It is our hope that a comprehensive and lasting solution to this conflict will be reached on the basis of mutual respect to sovereignty of all countries and that all other sanctions against the Qatari people will be lifted as soon as possible," the ministry said in a press release.

— CNBC's Ryan Browne and Mila Latoof contributed to this report.