Saudi Arabia Ends Three-year Blockade with Qatar, Opens Airspace, Land and Sea Borders

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

“Based on [Kuwait’s ruler Emir] Sheikh Nawaf’s proposal, it was agreed to open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar, starting from this evening,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah said on state TV on Monday.

Kuwaiti emir had spoken with Qatar’s emir and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince.

The conversations “emphasised that everyone was keen on reunification” and would gather in Al-Ula [for the GCC summit]to sign a statement that promises to “usher in a bright page of brotherly relations”.

In June 2017, the blockading countries – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – accused Qatar, among other things, of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran and severed economic and diplomatic ties. They also imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar.

Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations.

Kuwait has been mediating between Qatar and four Arab states.

Last month, the GCC said Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was invited to the bloc’s summit meeting, which will be held in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

On Monday evening, Qatar’s Government Communications Office confirmed that Sheikh Tamim will attend the summit that takes place in the northwestern Al-Ula province.

In remarks carried by the Saudi state-run news agency on Monday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the GCC summit will be “inclusive”, leading the states toward “reunification and solidarity in facing the challenges of our region”.

Shortly after the announcement, Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, described the upcoming summit as “historic”.

“We stand before a historic summit in Al-Ula, through which we restore our Gulf cohesion and ensure that security, stability and prosperity is our top priority. We have more work ahead and we are headed in the right direction,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that the country “welcomed” the decision on reopening the border, adding that it was “an important step towards resolving the dispute”.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal al-Shayyal said Monday’s announcement was “very significant in the sense that it is paving the way to the announcement”.

“One of the pre-conditions the Qataris had was that it made no sense to discuss or sign an agreement as long as it remained under an unjust and illegal blockade,” he added.

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