Qatar and Saudi Arabia Close to Restoring Ties Following Kushner Visit, Reports Say

Three-year rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over foreign policy, including close Iran ties, may be nearing an end, Al Jazeera and Bloomberg report, but similar talks collapsed in February

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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left), senior U.S. advisor Jared Kushner (center) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left), senior U.S. advisor Jared Kushner (center) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.Credit: AFP

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are nearing an agreement to end a dispute that has diplomatically and economically isolated the small Gulf state from its neighbors for three years, Qatar’s state broadcaster Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.

The two countries “are close to striking a preliminary agreement,” the Al Jazeera report said, following a visit from U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner and a small delegation of the administration’s Middle East envoys. The team is attempting to restore ties before Trump leaves office in January.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing the state of promoting terrorism and enjoying close links to regional arch-foe Iran.

Saudi Arabia gave Qatar a list of 13 demands for reestablishing ties, including cutting links to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, closing down Al Jazeera and shutting a Turkish military base.

According to a report from Bloomberg News, which cited sources with knowledge of the agreement, the Saudi-Qatar deal involves a detailed plan for restoring ties, which is likely to include a reopening of the long-blockaded land and air borders, as well as an end to the information war being waged by the two states.      

Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, meets with U.S. President's senior adviser Jared Kushner in Doha, Qatar, December 2, 2020.Credit: Qatar News Agency/Handout via Reuters

The Bloomberg report adds that the latest rapprochement effort does not include UAE, Bahrain or Egypt. One source said that until Qatar’s relationship with Iran is resolved, its realignment with other regional states is far off.

In February, similar talks between Saudi Arabia and Qatar broke down soon after they began a few months prior. Qatar had stressed the restoration of freedom of its citizens to travel to the nations boycotting it, as well as reopening its land border with Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh had demanded that Qatar first change its foreign policy, which sees Doha backing Riyadh’s opponents in several regional conflicts. One diplomat told Reuters that it would be a “non-starter” for Qatar, citing their many foreign policy disagreements.

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