In a major sign of their intention to end the three-year diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with a hug – despite masks and COVID restrictions – upon his arrival at Al-Ula airport to attend the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.
Just yesterday reports emerged that the Gulf crisis was on its way to being resolved due in large part to U.S. and Kuwaiti efforts. Today, the Gulf states signed a “solidarity and stability” agreement at the GCC aiming to end the dispute.
This is another huge diplomatic achievement for the Trump administration. Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, mediated the deal and is expected at this week’s summit. Under Trump, two Gulf states have signed historic peace deals with Israel essentially reshuffling regional alliances and expanding an alliance against Iran.
While it is a long shot that Qatar will join the Abraham Accords, it has always been mentioned as a possibility along with Oman.
The crisis began in 2017 when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain accused Qatar of undermining security in the region, supporting terrorism and allying with Iran. The countries placed Qatar under a blockade, closing their airspace and sea routes to Qatari planes and vessels.
As part of steps toward reconciliation land crossings and air space will be open again enabling trade and diplomacy. According to an Axios report, “Qatar will withdraw all lawsuits against its three Gulf neighbors; and all parties will stop their media campaigns against each other.”
Leaders from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait are attending the GCC. In addition to reconciliation with Qatar, establishing ties with Israel, the alleged threat posed by Iran and the expected change in U.S. Middle East policy will be on the GCC agenda.
Hamad bin Jassim, former Qatari prime minister, commented on the end of the crisis.
“A crisis that began and prolonged is over now,” he wrote on Twitter. “I do not want to go into the details, circumstances, and the reasons for the crisis’ beginning, this crisis is the most dangerous and difficult in the history of the Gulf Cooperation Council system.”
The Doha-based Al-Jazeera network also praised the restoration of relations.
After news of the agreement came out, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al Sabah said in a statement that the Kuwaiti emir had spoken with Qatar’s emir and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The conversations “emphasized that everyone was keen on reunification” and would “usher in a bright page of brotherly relations.”
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said, “We stand before a historic summit in Al-Ula, through which we restore our Gulf cohesion and ensure that security, stability and prosperity is our top priority. We have more work ahead and we are headed in the right direction.”
Even Turkey welcomed the decision on reopening the border, adding that it was “an important step towards resolving the dispute,” according to a statement by the foreign ministry.