Posted January 5, 2021 5:28 pm by

Saudi crown prince embraces Qatar, signs ‘solidarity’ deal

Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is given a warm welcome by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his first visit after three and a half years of broken relations, fueling hopes of rapprochement at a Gulf summit © Saudi Royal Palace/AFP / BANDAR AL-JALOUD

Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, Jan 5 – Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” deal Tuesday after the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar publicly embraced, bringing Doha back into the regional fold after a three-year rift.

Saudi Arabia had led a coalition of countries in the Gulf and beyond to cut ties and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, charging that it was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamist groups — allegations Doha denied.

Those countries, along with Oman and Kuwait which have mediated between the two sides, signed a rapprochement deal in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, after Riyadh overnight re-opened its land, sea and air borders to Doha.

“There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and to confront challenges that surround us, especially the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme and its plans for sabotage and destruction,” said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The details of the agreement were not immediately released, and analysts have warned that any deal could be preliminary in nature and may not immediately end all of the measures taken against Qatar.

But the warm welcome that Prince Mohammed extended to Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, with the pair embracing at the airport and then chatting animatedly, indicates a significant breakthrough.

Sheikh Tamim, visiting Saudi for the first time since the crisis began, was then whisked with the other leaders through Al-Ula’s dramatic Martian landscape to the shimmering Maraya Concert Hall, a mirrored structure situated in a nearby valley.

“These are first steps or a first phase of reconciliation that will be followed by other steps. Some may belittle that progress, but resuming open direct communication and avoiding verbal attacks is progress,” said Kuwait University assistant professor Bader al-Saif.

“The other states… will follow suit and pursue similar reconciliatory steps.”

– US cheerleading –

Washington had intensified pressure for a resolution to what Doha calls a “blockade”, insisting Gulf unity is necessary to isolate US foe Iran as the curtain falls on Donald Trump’s presidency.

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