Middle East

Saudi Arabia to reopen borders with Qatar

Saudi Arabia will reopen its land and sea borders with Qatar, in the first steps toward ending a diplomatic crisis that has deeply divided regional US allies since 2017.

Kuwait’s foreign ministry announced the move on Monday, as part of a deal towards resolving a political dispute that led Riyadh and its allies to impose a boycott on Qatar.

The state-run Kuwait News Agency reported the announcement, saying Saudi Arabia would open its borders with Qatar from Monday evening.

Qatar’s only land border has been mostly closed since mid-2017, when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain launched a blockade against the tiny Gulf state, accusing it of supporting Islamist groups in the region and of having warm ties with Iran. Kuwait has been mediating between Qatar and the four Arab states.

The lifting of the embargo by Saudi Arabia paves the way for Qatar’s ruler to attend a summit of Gulf leaders on Tuesday that will be held in the kingdom’s desert city of Al-Ula and chaired by the Saudi monarch, King Salman.

The Gulf Cooperation Council summit will be “inclusive”, leading the states towards “reunification and solidarity in facing the challenges of our region”, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was quoted as saying in remarks carried by the Saudi state-run news agency.

The decision by the close US allies comes in the final days of the Trump administration’s time in office, and just ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in.