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January 19, 2021
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Saudi Arabia-Qatar agreement to end hostilities in Gulf

RIYADH, Saudi Araba: Qatar and Saudi Arabia are close to striking a preliminary agreement to end a dispute that has strained relationships between the two Gulf neighbours for more than three years.

The expected deal comes after the United States President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner arrived in the Gulf region as part of a last-ditch effort to resolve the Gulf crisis before the Trump administration leaves office in January.

 

Kushner’s tour included meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh earlier this week, and with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in Doha on Wednesday. Kushner has since left Qatar.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quoted US officials as saying that the main focus of the talks would be to resolve a dispute over allowing Qatari planes to fly through the airspace of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Related story: Seeking ways to end dispute with Qatar: Saudi Arabia FM

The imminent agreement would not involve the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, which together with Saudi Arabia formed a quartet of blockading countries against Qatar.

In June 2017, the quartet cut off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air embargo on the Gulf state, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and having ties with Iran that were deemed too close.

Doha has repeatedly rejected the accusations as baseless while highlighting its readiness for dialogue.

As the price for lifting the blockade, the four nations set a 13-point ultimatum for Qatar, which included shutting down Al Jazeera Media Network.

The WSJ reported that the blockading countries had relaxed their demands for lifting the blockade, noting that Saudi Arabia has shown more willingness to find common ground to resolve the crisis.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani confirmed two weeks ago that Doha welcomed a dialogue as long as it was built on respect for Qatar’s sovereignty. He explained that neither side was benefitting from the continuation of the Gulf crisis.