Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt are expected to finalize an agreement on Tuesday brokered by the Trump administration to end their blockade of Qatar. The blockade had been in place since 2017 after Saudi leaders accused Qatar of supporting terrorist groups and aligning their interests with Iran.
On Monday, Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Nasser Al-Muhammad Al-Sabah announced the Saudi decision to reopen its land and sea borders with Qatar and allow Qatar access through its airspace once again, starting on Monday night. Kuwait has acted as a mediator throughout Qatar’s dispute with Saudi Arabia and its allies.
According to the Wall Street Journal, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner helped broker the deal on behalf of the Trump administration. Kushner flew to Saudi Arabia on Monday, where leaders are expected to hold a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting to move forward with the agreement.
Under the new agreement Saudi Arabia and its allies will all lift the sea, air and land restrictions against Qatar. The countries are agreeing to end the blockade in exchange for Qatar Airways agreeing to drop a number of lawsuits seeking $5 billion in compensation for the airspace bans.
“This is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had to date,” a senior Trump administration official told the Wall Street Journal. “It doesn’t mean they will love each other and be best friends, but it does mean they will be able to work together.”
While the agreement would end the border restrictions besieging Qatar, some disagreements are likely remain.
Axios reported a senior diplomat for one of the gulf countries said, “Some of the issues were solved, but the root causes for the rift — bad personal relationships between the leaders and big policy differences on Iran, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood — are still there.”
In addition to their blockade, Saudi Arabia and its allies issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, including closing down the Qatari state-backed Al Jazeera news network, ending ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and cutting off its military cooperation with Iran. Trump also initially supported the pressure campaign on Qatar, before eventually moving to end the dispute between the countries. The U.S. maintains bilateral relations with Qatar, as well as Saudi Arabia and the other Saudi-allied countries.
In the fall of 2019, Qatar’s foreign minister reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia and agreed to constrain Al Jazeera, which has reported critically against Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. Despite Qatar offering to dial back the negative reporting, Al Jazeera continued to run critical programming against the leaders of the other nations.
Axios reported that under the agreement, the involved countries have agreed to end their negative-media campaigns against one another.
Another Trump administration official told the Wall Street Journal, “Is it perfect? No. Ultimately, I think what this shows is that the parties have more to gain from ending this now than from letting it go on beyond the Trump administration.”
The agreement comes in the final weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take office. Biden has vowed to take a tougher approach on U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, including ending U.S. support for a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, against the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels.