Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to reopen their airspace and maritime borders starting Monday, after a years long freeze on relations, Kuwaiti officials have announced.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Mohammed al Sabah said Monday on state television that “based on the recommendation of his highness Sheikh Nawaf al Ahmad al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait God protect him, it was agreed to open the air and maritime borders starting today (Monday) between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
He also said that the final agreement was the fruit of a call brokered by the Kuwaiti Emir with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The diplomatic breakthrough comes one day before a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Tuesday, hosted by Saudi Arabia.
Representatives from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will attend the event. The Qatari Emir will also attend the summit, his first visit to the country in three years.
In a statement, bin Salman said the summit would focus on regional “unity and cohesion,” according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA). “Through [the summit] the hopes of the [Saudi] King and his brothers, the leaders of the (Gulf Cooperation Council), for unity and cohesion will be translated into facing the challenges of the region,” SPA reported.
A senior US administration official told CNN on Monday that President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, helped negotiate the reopening between the two countries and was also expected at Tuesday’s summit to attend a ceremony marking the achievement.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates broke off relations with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. Qatar – which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia – rejected the accusations, calling them “unjustified” and “baseless.”
But Saudi Arabia and Qatar have recently worked to close the rift. At a virtual diplomatic conference in December, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said he was “optimistic” about repairing relations.
The two countries had taken “significant” steps toward reconciliation, he added, crediting both Kuwait and the US: “We’ve made significant progress in the last few days, thanks to the continuing efforts of Kuwait but also thanks to strong support from President Trump and US administration towards bringing all parties closer.”
At the same conference, Qatar’s Foreign Minister acknowledged that there were movements to finally “put an end to the Gulf crisis.”
Mostafa Salem contributed reporting from Abu Dhabi and Hande Atay Alam from Atlanta.