Relations thaw between Qatar and neighbours

12 January 2021

A rapprochement between Qatar and other Arab states is on the cards after vehicles from Qatar crossed the border into Saudi Arabia for the first time in more than three years.

In June 2017 Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Doha over claims it backed Islamist groups and was too close to Iran. 

But air travel between Qatar and Saudi Arabia was set to resume on Monday as the states normalised ties under a landmark agreement following a US diplomatic initiative.

The UAE announced it would reopen its borders and airspace to Qatar, after the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced a US-backed deal to end the dispute had succeeded in healing the rift. 

Qatar’s national carrier, Qatar Airways, announced it had started to fly through Saudi airspace while Saudi Airlines announced plans to begin flying from Riyadh and Jeddah to Doha.

Abu Dhabi’s carrier, Etihad, said it planned to resume services between Abu Dhabi and Doha, without giving an exact date.

The deal marked a success for the embattled Trump administration, which is preparing to hand over power to Joe Biden on 20 January.

Qatar had been paying Iran $100m annually to use its airspace to bypass Saudi Arabia, according to The New York Times.

Qatar’s sudden isolation in 2017 quickly disrupted supply chains, with a Qatari businessman deciding to fly 4,000 cows to the country to maintain supplies of milk.

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