Arab quartet restores relations with Qatar after years-long blockade

Riyadh, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt fully restored diplomatic relations with Qatar as of Tuesday following a three-and-a-half-year blockade after they had accused Doha of sponsoring terror.

“What happened today is a complete end to the disputes and the complete recovery of diplomatic relations, which will apply to all member countries and also to Egypt, and will be a strong and important basis for the future of the region and its stability,” Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said.

Bin Farhan made these remarks during a presser at the end of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s summit held in Saudi Arabia.

The four countries decided in June 2017 to cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, in one of the most serious diplomatic spats the GCC has had since it was created in 1981.

“We managed to reach this conclusion through mechanisms accepted by all parties (…) All pending cases, diplomatic relations and flights will be as before,” Bin Farhan said referring to the situation prior to the blockade.

During the presser, the GCC Secretary General Nayef al-Hayraf read the Al-Ula Declaration, named after the Saudi governorate that hosted the summit, which focused on the reconciliation with Qatar.

“What you have seen today is the result of great efforts that took place behind the scenes for a long time and that have resulted in today’s agreement,” signed by the Gulf members and Egypt, Al-Hayraf said.

The signing of the deal is “essential” in the GCC’s trajectory “for a collective confrontation with the challenges, not only geopolitical, but also economic, imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

The final communique of the 41st summit stressed the “solid relations” between the Gulf countries and the role the United States played to resolve the rift.

Jared Kushner, a close advisor to US President Donald Trump, attended the summit, but he did not make any public remarks.

It was Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman who inaugurated the summit on behalf of King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.

The document “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood among our countries,” he said.

Kuwait’s ruler, Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, whose country has mediated to resolve the rift, said that the agreement reached at the summit would favor “the cohesion and unity of the Arab nation.”

In his first appearance at a GCC summit since 2017, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad was the last to arrive in Saudi Arabia on board a Qatar Airways plane a few hours after the kingdom reopened its borders and airspace with Doha.

Upon his arrival in the northwestern Saudi governorate of Al-Ula for the summit, Bin Hamad was welcomed by Bin Salman with their meeting broadcast by Saudi state-run TV, which showed the crown prince and Qatar’s ruler embracing.

During the reading of Al-Ula Declaration, the state-run SPA news agency published a photo of the two leaders at a meeting.

“During the meeting, they reviewed the bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and how to improve joint action in the Gulf,” SPA reported, without providing further details.

The reconciliation was welcomed by the Arab League’s secretary general, Ahmed Abulgheit, who said: “Any effective step leads to the purification of the Arab atmosphere and is in the interest of the collective Arab system.”

“There is no doubt that the great challenges facing the Arab world demand closing this rift as quickly as possible, and settling the (matter) between brothers,” he stressed.

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