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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

Saudi Arabia to restore ties with Qatar, says Saudi foreign minister

The breakthrough was announced at the 41st GCC summit in Al Ula

Saudi Arabia will restore ties with Qatar, the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told a press conference after the 41st Gulf Co-operation Council summit that Riyadh would restore diplomatic relations after signing Al Ula declaration.

“What happened today is ... the turning of the page on all points of difference and a full return of diplomatic relations,” Prince Faisal said following the landmark summit in the desert city of Al Ula.

Leaders of the six-member GCC signed two documents on Tuesday, the Al Ula Declaration and a final communique. Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, said the agreement affirms Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in 2017 over its support of extremist groups.

The summit, named this year in honour of two Gulf rulers who died in 2020, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos and Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah, was centred on the themes of honesty and reconciliation.

“Today’s summit headed by Mohammad bin Salman was very important because it placed the security of the region at the forefront. No matter the differences, the leaders’ vision is to surpass those difficulties,” Prince Faisal said.

He thanked the late Kuwaiti emir and the US for their role in bringing about the easing of the rift.

“Strong political will” among the GCC leadership will be the guarantor that the Al Ula agreement is implemented, he said.

The participating countries have agreed not to “infringe on the sovereignty, threaten the security or target the social fabric” of any of the participating countries according to Al Ula declaration, Prince Faisal said.

GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Falah Al Hajraf said the summit and resulting agreement “marks a new era of the GCC, representing a union of partnerships, strength and unity as we embark together on the fifth decade of this union.

“This historic summit reiterates the commitment of their majesties and highnesses of member states to achieving the council’s firm objectives to continue co-ordination and integration across all sectors,” he said.

“The future of the GCC in this new era, under the leadership of their majesties and highnesses, will foster development, ensure stability and security, and will provide hope and opportunity for the citizens of member states.”

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and Qatar agreed to open borders between their nations and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim said he would attend the summit in Al Ula.

Prince Mohammed met Sheikh Tamim on Tuesday. They “reviewed the bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries, and ways to enhance joint Gulf action”, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash told Sky News Arabia at the summit the nations involved had turned “the page of crisis and long-term disagreement”.

“I think there’s an optimism about the outcome of the Al Ula – and the statement of unity that emerged from the summit,” he said.

Dr Gargash said the crucial role of Saudi Arabia, the US and Kuwait played in bringing the rift to a close, and that the pandemic had shown the GCC faced challenges that “require a renewed closeness”.

“Undoubtedly, the aspect of extremism and terrorism has always been a point of contention in the last crisis and a main contention for the UAE and the region,” he said, referring to Qatar’s funding of extremist groups, which led the four to cut ties with Doha in 2017.

He said the agreement signed on Tuesday “has an aspect related to resisting extremism and terrorism and combatting it”.

Dr Gargash told CNN he was optimistic for the future of the group of six.

“I think we are quite honest about what we want to see. We want to see a region that is more stable, we want to steer away from threatening language and threatening action,” he said.

“I think this is the sort of message that we are sending today. The main thing that emerges from Al Ula is capable Saudi leadership and at the same time, a united GCC, trying to orient itself as one geostrategic grouping.”

Updated: January 6, 2021 02:47 PM

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