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Rebuilding GCC bridges: Saudi-Qatar relations may thaw

It may take time to heal the harsh rhetoric and it likely won’t be a quick ‘all is forgotten’, but Saudi and Qatar may find a way through their 3+ years rift

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are nearing a preliminary deal prodded by the Trump administration Diplomatic push to resolve the crisis may end the blockade in the next 70 days Kuwaiti mediators secured a new deal to replace the list of 13 demands that were initially presented to Doha

It may take time to heal the harsh rhetoric and it likely won’t be a quick ‘all is forgotten’, but Saudi and Qatar may find a way through their 3+ years rift that started in June 2017. The other parties on the Saudi camp, namely UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt, will have to wait.

Read: GCC rift with Qatar may be mending and the US is in the middle of it

A US-brokered deal in the making    

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are nearing a preliminary deal prodded by the Trump administration, according to three people with knowledge of the talks.

A broader realignment with the other parties may be a long way off.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner visited the Gulf this week meeting with both Saudi and Qatari sides. 

Kushner’s tour included meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh earlier this week, and with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in Doha on Wednesday. Kushner has since left Qatar, Al Jazeera has learned.

The rapprochement is likely to include reopening air space and land borders 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the driving force behind a boycott, which divided the world’s top oil-producing region, rerouting air traffic and disrupting trade and business. 

The boycotting countries had accused Qatar of bankrolling militant groups and undermining regional attempts to isolate Iran, whose regional and nuclear ambitions they fear.  

Saudi Arabia is reportedly seeking a way to end the blockade on Qatar and enhance relations with the incoming Biden presidency, according to reports.

“This is a gift for Biden,” Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst close to the royal court, said, according to a Financial Times report.

 The national security advisor to US President Donald Trump, Robert O’Brien said Washington is working on the last diplomatic push to resolve the crisis, expressing hopes for an end to the blockade in the next 70 days.

“I’d like to see that get done before – if we end up leaving office – I’d like to see that get done in the next 70 days. And I think there’s a possibility for it,” O’Brien told The Hill at the 2020 Global Security Forum last week.

According to Shihabi, Kuwaiti mediators working to resolve the crisis secured a new deal to replace the list of 13 demands that were initially presented to Doha.  

Qatar’s foreign minister has said there has been movement on resolving the diplomatic dispute.

“Right now, there is a movement that we hope will put an end to this crisis,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, also deputy prime minister, said on November 4.

“We believe the end of the crisis is important for the security of the region and for sake of our people. This crisis needs to end based on mutual respect and the rights of all people of the Gulf.

“Qatar is not differentiating between any of the countries. We hope things will move in the right direction but we cannot yet predict if it will be imminent and if it will be resolved in one day.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has in recent weeks suggested the kingdom was “committed to finding a solution”.