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With a warm hug, Saudi and Qatari leaders agree to open borders

The decision to open land, air and sea borders came just ahead of a summit of regional leaders in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday

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Saudi Arabia | Qatar

Agencies 

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (left) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. The Gulf leaders signed a pact towards ending the three-year diplomatic rift with Qatar. Photo: Reuters
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (left) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. The Gulf leaders signed a pact towards ending the three-year diplomatic rift with Qatar. Photo: Reuters

opened its borders with for the first time in three years, a leap toward easing a dispute that split the energy-producing region and complicated US efforts to isolate Iran.

The decision to open land, air and sea borders came just ahead of a summit of regional leaders in on Tuesday. Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was met in the historic city of al-Ula by de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two men, wearing face masks, embraced on the tarmac.

Qatar’s ruler is attending the summit for the first time since the 2017 row that cut trade, travel and diplomatic ties with the Saudi kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Bahran and Egypt. The ties were severed over allegations that Doha supports terrorism, a charge it denies.

The deal regarding reopening Saudi airspace and borders to Qatar, a senior US official said, was signed in the presence of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

“These efforts helped us reach the agreement of the al-Ula statement that will be signed at this summit, where we affirm our Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability,” Saudi Crown Prince told the GCC meeting, thanking the US and Kuwait for their mediation.

The US official said Kushner, assigned to work on the dispute by US President Donald Trump, helped negotiate the deal and was making phone calls on it until the early hours of Monday morning.

The breakthrough is the latest in a series of Middle East deals sought by Washington — the others involving Israel and Arab states — aimed at building a united front against Iran.

While Riyadh made clear it intended to lift the embargo, the other three states did not immediately comment on the issue. But the US official said "it's our expectation" they would also join. Under the emerging deal, will suspend lawsuits related to the boycott, the official said.

Diplomats and analysts say was pushing reluctant allies for the deal to show US President-elect Joe Biden that Riyadh is open to dialogue.

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First Published: Wed, January 06 2021. 01:50 IST
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