Saudi Arabia opened its land border Monday to Qatar ahead of a Tuesday deal to end a three-year-long blockade imposed on Qatar. The kingdom will also open its airspace to the country, Kuwait’s foreign minister stated.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah announced Monday the reopening of the borders and airspace as a senior Trump administration official told Reuters that a breakthrough had been reached and that a deal will be signed.
“It’s just a massive breakthrough,” the official said. “The blockade will be lifted. It will allow for travel amongst the countries as well as goods. It will lead to more stability in the region.”
2 \ BREAKING: Kuwaiti Foreign Minister announced Saudi Arabia and Qatar will open their land, air and sea borders starting tonight ahead of the signing of the agreement tomorrow— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) January 4, 2021
4 \ The state of play: Kushner traveled to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit which will take place in Al Ula. White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and adviser Brian Hook who helped negotiate the agreement joined Kushner on his trip— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) January 4, 2021
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, assigned to the dispute by U.S. President Donald Trump, had helped negotiate the Tuesday deal, working with the parties until the “wee hours of Monday morning,” the anonymous official told Reuters.
Kushner helped save the deal when it nearly fell apart Sunday, Bloomberg reported.
The deal, part of a series of Middle East deals sought by President Donald Trump to build a unified counter-Iran front, is expected to be signed Tuesday at the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg reported.
It comes amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States.
The land border between the two countries is currently open, but there have been no crossing so far, Al Jazeera reported.
No crossings so far!— sorin furcoi (@furcoisorin) January 4, 2021
Dana Shell Smith, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar at the time the blockade began, in a tweet, welcomed the news of the borders reopening.
Well said. Welcome news, for everyone involved, their friends and partners. It is the beginning of a lasting solution. More work to be done, especially to move past the incredibly bitter feelings this needless blockade stoked between people and communities in the Gulf. https://t.co/nBYj2raZq9— Dana Shell Smith (@AmbDana) January 4, 2021
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all cut ties with Qatar within hours of each other on Jun. 5, 2017, imposing a sea, land and air blockade on the country, accusing it of supporting hardline Islamist groups, meddling in internal affairs and building ties with Iran. Bahrain even accused Qatar of “media incitement” through the state-affiliated broadcaster Al Jazeera. (RELATED: US Requires Al Jazeera Affiliate To Register As A Foreign Agent Of Qatar)
The countries then submitted a list of demands to Qatar following the blockade as conditions for lifting it. The demands included closing down Al Jazeera, curbing ties with Iran and ending alleged links to “terrorists organizations,” among many others, Gulf News reported.
Qatar rejected those demands, with its Emir saying that its “sovereignty is a red line,” according to MEMRI.
The blockade had complicated Trump’s efforts to expand the U.S.’ offensive to weaken Iran since Qatar, which houses 10,000 troops and is home to the Al Udeid Airbase, was forced to rely on Iran and Turkey for assistance while it was cut off from its neighbors, Bloomberg reported.
Saudi Arabia made it most clear that they sought to end the blockade, the anonymous official had told Reuters. The U.S expects the other countries to follow through, he added.