Embracing Qatar’s ruler, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince pushed a deal to end a row with Doha at a Gulf summit on Tuesday to try to strengthen an Arab alliance against Iran, although a final declaration contained only a general pledge of solidarity.
The kingdom’s foreign minister said Riyadh and its Arab allies agreed to restore ties with Doha to end a boycott imposed in mid-2017, in a deal backed by Washington but which a United Arab Emirates official suggested would take time.
While the communique contained no detailed confirmation of a deal, the apparent breakthrough signalled hope for mending a rift between major US allies two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office and at a time of tensions with Iran.
“There is political will and good faith” to guarantee implementation of the deal, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told a news conference, saying the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had agreed to restore ties with Doha.
His Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, tweeted that leaders “closed the page on disagreement”.
But UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash voiced a more cautious view in remarks to Al Arabiya TV, saying “we need to be realistic about the need to restore confidence and cohesion”. He later told Sky News Arabia there was a timeline for ending the conflict, but gave no details.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States welcomed what he called a “breakthrough to restore Gulf and Arab unity.”
He added: “We hope the Gulf countries will continue to reconcile their differences. Restoring full diplomatic relations is imperative for all parties in the region to unite against common threats.”
The emerging deal followed mediation efforts by the United States and Kuwait, and a US official has said Qatar would suspend legal cases related to the boycott.