Arab Gulf states to restore links with Qatar within a week

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that although rebuilding confidence and addressing difficult geopolitical issues were longer-term tasks, there was a push to quickly restore physical links. “The practical measures will be within a week… including travel, transportation, trade etc,” he told a press briefing.

Thursday 07/01/2021
Journalists watch the arrival of Qatar envoy ahead of the 41st GCC summit in the city of Al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia on January 5, 2021. (AFP)
Journalists watch the arrival of Qatar envoy ahead of the 41st GCC summit in the city of Al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia on January 5, 2021. (AFP)

ABU DHABI – Arab Gulf states will restore travel, trade and transport links with Qatar within a week, the UAE said Thursday, after a landmark deal to normalise ties ended a damaging rift.

Saudi Arabia and its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017 slapped a boycott on Qatar over Doha’s alleged support of radical Islamist groups and close ties with Iran.

The quartet agreed to lift the restrictions at a summit Tuesday in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula, after energetic diplomacy from the administration of US President Donald Trump which was keen for a foreign policy win in its closing days.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that although rebuilding confidence and addressing difficult geopolitical issues were longer-term tasks, there was a push to quickly restore physical links.

“The practical measures will be within a week… including travel, transportation, trade etc,” he told a press briefing, also flagging the prompt reopening of diplomatic missions.

Analysts have warned that the hasty reconciliation did not address underlying resentments which risk resurfacing.

Gargash, however, said that the UAE endorsed the process, even if the thornier issues including Qatar’s relationship with Iran and Turkey’s presence in the Gulf may take time to work through.

The UAE is “behind this deal, and positive about the prospect of re-establishing relations with Qatar,” he said.

“We recognise that any crisis will leave its repercussions, and dealing with the repercussions from that perspective will take some time.”

The Emirati minister of state noted that legal cases that Qatar filed against the UAE will be suspended in light of recently restored diplomatic relations.

“With two parties reconciling, it is natural that legal cases will also be dropped,” he said.

Gargash added that he expects that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “will go back to its full vitality” on the diplomatic front.

“GCC has been successful on the political and security front at the minimum. It has been more successful on the diplomatic front, because the GCC has been one of the most successful Arab regional grouping.”

In recent months, Washington has intensified pressure for a resolution to the dispute with Qatar, insisting Gulf unity is necessary to isolate US foe Iran.