International

Saudi Arabia to lift Qatar blockade, open borders – Kuwait minister

Saudi efforts to isolate Qatar were reportedly set to end on Monday, with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Amhad Nasser Al Sabah announcing that Riyadh would be opening “the airspace and land and sea borders” between Saudi Arabia and Qatar “starting from this evening.”

Tensions between the two neighbors spilt into the open in mid-2017, when Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic, trade, and travel ties with Qatar.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt also joined the blockade. The four countries accused Doha of backing radical Islamist movements and cozying up to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.

The bloc also set out 13 demands for Qatar, including closing the Al Jazeera news network and downgrading links with Iran.

Qatar, which is home to the largest US military base in the region, said the boycott aimed to undermine the country’s national sovereignty.

The nation has some 2.3 million inhabitants, the overwhelming majority of whom are expats, and shares its only land border with the much larger Saudi Arabia.

A map of Qatar with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia

Kuwait has been acting as a mediator between the two sides. In December 2020, Foreign Minister Al Sabah signaled progress by saying that “all sides expressed their keenness for Gulf and Arab unity and stability” while discussing the issue.

At the time, Qatar said that any solution should be based on mutual respect.

“No country is in a position to impose any demands on another country … Each country should decide its foreign policy,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

It was not immediately clear if Qatar accepted any of the demands previously listed by Riyadh and its backers in order to achieve the compromise announced on Monday.

The announcement comes ahead of a Gulf leaders’ summit set for Tuesday.