Saudi Arabia to reopen borders to Qatar; UAE official says Gulf summit to restore Gulf unity

Reuters , Monday 4 Jan 2021

The state-run Kuwait News Agency reported the announcement, saying that Saudi Arabia would open its airspace, land and sea borders starting Monday evening.

File photo: King Salman bin Abdulaziz receives Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani (L) of Qatar in Riyadh, in this February 17, 2015 handout picture. (Reuters Photo)

Saudi Arabia will reopen its airspace and land and sea border to Qatar as of Monday, Kuwait's foreign minister said in televised comments, citing a deal towards resolving a political dispute that led Riyadh and its allies to impose a boycott on Qatar.

Kuwait and the United States have been trying to end the row in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-Gulf Egypt severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in mid-2017, shattering regional unity which Washington says hinders efforts to contain Iran.

"An agreement has been reached to open airspace and land and sea borders between Saudi Arabia and Qatar as of this evening," Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah said on Kuwait TV ahead of a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

Saudi state agency SPA quoted Saudi Arabia's 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".

Kuwait's foreign minister said a declaration would be signed at the summit, which was postponed from its usual December date as Riyadh pushed for an agreement towards ending the rift.

The four boycotting countries had accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the charges and says the embargo aims to curtail its sovereignty.

Doha had been set 13 demands, ranging from closing Al Jazeera television and shuttering a Turkish base to cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, joined by Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, a special State Department adviser, were flying to the Saudi Arabia to attend the signing ceremony, a senior Trump administration official said. 

On the other hand, Qatar's ruling Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will attend a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the royal court said on Monday.

Meanwhile,  a senior United Arab Emirates (UAE) official said on Monday that a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday would restore Gulf unity.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post that "more work lies ahead and we are moving in the right direction".

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