Reconciliation with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE includes a non-aggression pact

A three-year boycott of Qatar by four other Middle Eastern countries that disfigured Gulf cooperation and raised concerns in the west about a strengthened regional role for Iran and Turkey has come to a stuttering close.

With varying degrees of enthusiasm, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates announced they were ending their air, land and sea boycott of the tiny, gas-rich state of Qatar. The boycott had begun in June 2017, when the four countries accused Qatar of supporting Islamist groups in the region and of having warm ties with Iran.

The summit agreed a solidarity statement in which all sides agreed to respect the principle of non interference in one another’s affairs whilst retaining the freedom to conduct their own foreign policy.

As part of the deal Qatar has agreed to freeze a number of its high-profile legal claims, such as at the World Trade Organization, and to sign up to a non-aggression pact with the boycotting states aimed at tempering a media war waged by local websites.

But most of the boycotting states’ 13 political demands, such as ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood and closing a range of media operations including Al Jazeera, have been quietly dropped. Qatar has said all along during negotiations mediated by Kuwait that submitting to the demands would have meant effectively losing sovereignty over its foreign policy.

The dispute has nevertheless left scars on the region, and some analysts say fundamental ideological differences have been left unresolved, including Qatar’s belief in its role as a mediator in disputes across Africa and the Middle East. Qatar has long argued that trying to suppress legitimate grievances with a security-led response fuels terrorism.

The reconciliation means that, subject to Covid-19 disruption, Qatar will be able to host the World Cup in 2022 without the distraction of a neighbourhood dispute. There are also hopes that fractured personal relations between families hailing from different parts of the Gulf will be healed.

Extracts taken from article in Guardian


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