Qatar Emir lands in Saudi Arabia for landmark GCC Summit to end three-year blockade

On January 4, Qatar emir Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s landed at Saudi city of al-Ula from Qatar airways Airbus A340 for the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit and was received by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The plane emblazoned with the text “QATAR” landed northwestern of Saudi Arabia, at around 0900 GMT, according to Saudi state press Al-Arabiya.  Saudi, in a historic move, opened its airspace and land and sea borders with Qatar for the first time after the two nations reached a breakthrough agreement, ending Saudi’s long-standing dispute with Doha. The middle eastern Quartet Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain had imposed travel and trade embargo on Qatar in June 2017, due to bitter diplomatic relations. 

In a major step towards ending the Gulf crisis, Saudi Arabia not only opened its borders but received the Qatari Emir with open arms in the desert city. As Al-Thani descended the plane, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greeted him with a hug and extended a warm welcome. The event that marks a diplomatic breakthrough for the Persian Gulf country was broadcast live on Saudi TV. Qatar’s Ruler will attend the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit held in Saudi Arabia’s ancient desert site which will be ‘inclusive’ for the Gulf countries for the “reunification and solidarity in facing the challenges of our region,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a press address aired LIVE by Saudi state-run news agency.

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Deal brokered by Kuwaiti Emir

On January 4, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Mohammed al Sabah announced in a presser that based on the recommendation of Sheikh Nawaf al Ahmad al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, Saudi had denied to open its air and maritime borders starting January 4 between for Qatar. A deal was brokered by Kuwaiti Emir with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman only a day before a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council hosted by Saudi Arabia. The summit will be attended by the representatives of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will focus on regional “unity and cohesion” to tackle the challenges collaboratively in the Gulf region, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing bin Salman’s official statement. 

[Airplanes of Arab states are seen at Al Ula airport, Saudi Arabia, where leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will meet for a summit. Credit: AP]

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