Arab Allies Restore Diplomatic Ties With Qatar

After three and a half years of disputes, Egypt finally reopened its airspace to Qatar on 12 January 2021. This will allow the resumption of Qatari flights across the aforementioned Egyptian airspace. According to Al-Ahram, this enables national transporters to submit, once again, flight schedules for approval. The ban lift not only benefits flights, but also international agreements that regulate the transport of goods between both countries, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

In June 2017, the Gulf allies – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain – along with Egypt decided to cut economic and diplomatic ties with the Qatari government after Doha allegedly supported terrorism and interfered with the Arab states’ internal affairs. These are allegations which Qatar persistently denied.

Prior to the allegation, in 2013, tensions stirred between Cairo and Doha after the removal from power of the former Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi after only a year in power. Morsi, who identified as an ally of Qatar, belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is considered a terrorist organization and is currently blacklisted in Egypt.

The political besiegement ended after a summit that took place in Saudi Arabia the week before the resumption of flights. A summit where Egypt sought out regional reconciliation, without actually pitching a tangible plan. However, after years of ruptured diplomatic ties, the Gulf allies and Egypt signed a Kuwait-sponsored declaration to end the dispute with Qatar during the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. 

The embargo severed the GCC summit and disturbed their diplomatic liaison with the United States and its foreign policy. The end to this political and economic prohibition followed after the Trump administration and Kuwait’s efforts to arbitrate the dispute. 

The willingness of the Arab countries to reconcile is due to the upcoming change in administration of the American government. Saudi Arabia wishes to unify the Arab region and prepare for Joe Biden’s firmer political stance with regards to the kingdom and its re-engagement with Iran. Meanwhile, Qatari analysts predict this will alleviate cultural and political differences between the cities of Cairo and Doha, and allow the recovery of multilateral relations.  

During that same summit, the Saudi Crown Prince urged international actors to take measures against Tehran’s atomic program and support for militias. In the words of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and to confront challenges that surround us.”