By Shaikh Moazzam Khan
Saudi Arabia will open its airspace and land border to Qatar in the first step toward ending a years-long diplomatic crisis. The blockade deeply divided U.S. defense partners, frayed societal ties and tore apart a traditionally clubby alliance of Gulf Arab states. The allies also agreed to reopened air, land and sea route which is likely to have positive consequences on the economic, political and strategic situation of the region. The development comes at a time when entire world is facing the worst health conditions. This week, GCC countries met in Saudi city of Ula to discuss the prevailing situation of the region especially rising tension in the Strait of Hurmuz between USA and Iran.
Qatar’s only land border has been mostly closed since mid-2017, when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain launched the blockade against the tiny Gulf country, accusing it of supporting Islamist extremist groups and of having warm ties with Iran. The Saudi border, which Qatar relied on for the import of dairy products, construction materials and other goods, opened briefly during the past three years to allow Qataris into Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic hajj pilgrimage. It was unclear what concessions Qatar had made or is promising to make regarding a shift in its policies.
While the Saudi decision marks a major milestone towards resolving the Gulf crisis, the path to full reconciliation is far from guaranteed. The rift between Abu Dhabi and Doha has been deepest, with the UAE and Qatar at sharp ideological odds. A senior UAE’s official voiced optimism over the restoration of ties with Doha, but said trust-building measures were needed to reestablish ties. “We need to be realistic about the need to restore confidence and restore cohesion,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Al Arabiya television. Saudi crown prince met Qatar emir and reviewed bilateral ties the two “brotherly” countries and ways of enforcing joint Gulf action, the Saudi state news agency reported.
The Saudi decision may pave the way for rapprochement with Iran as Qatar has close relations with Tehran. The increasing animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is jeopardizing regional and global peace and may trigger full-fledge war. So, therefore it is responsibility of all other stats to play their due role in bringing peace in the region before it’s too late.
International Media and community both have welcomed the Saudi decision made at the summit of GCC. Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, who followed the Gulf dispute closely, said that it was evident that the Gulf leaders, at least Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, spared no effort to show that the summit was a new page in GCC relations. “This is essentially an end to a feud that destabilised the region for three and a half years and beginning of the new era,” he said from Doha. “Not only this is seen a new chapter in Gulf relations, it is also seen as a new chapter in Saudi Arabia,” Elshayyal also said. At the GCC summit, Gulf leaders have signed a ‘solidarity and stability’ deal.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Smith told CBSN on Tuesday that the Qatari emir’s presence at the summit in Saudi Arabia was important not only to the region but for the United States because stability within the council allows for a more united front against Iran. Saudi Arabia may be seeking to both grant the Trump administration a final diplomatic win and remove stumbling blocks to building warm ties with the Biden administration, which is expected to take a firmer stance toward the kingdom. Normalization with Qatar could buy Saudi Arabia time to strike compromises with the Biden administration on other issues, like its war in Yemen and potential U.S. re-engagement with Iran, said Samuel Ramani, a non-resident fellow at the Gulf International Forum.