Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries will reopen their airspace, land, and sea borders to Qatar under a deal towards resolving a political dispute that had led Riyadh and its allies to impose a boycott on Doha, US and Kuwaiti officials say.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade, and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade, and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017. (Getty Images)

A breakthrough has been reached in Qatar's three-year-old rift with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries and an agreement to end their dispute is to be signed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official said.

"We've had a breakthrough in the Gulf Cooperation Council rift," said the official on Monday, who spoke to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia will reopen its borders and airspace to Qatar, the Kuwaiti foreign minister said.

"Based on (Kuwait's ruler Emir) Sheikh Nawaf's proposal, it was agreed to open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar, starting from this evening," said Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser al Sabah on state TV.

Turkey hailed the reset in ties between Riyadh and Doha, saying the efforts of international actors, particularly Kuwait, "who have contributed to the decision-making through their mediation and facilitation activities are admirable."

"Our hope is that this conflict will be resolved comprehensively and permanently on the basis of mutual respect for the sovereignty of the countries and that other sanctions against the people of Qatar will be lifted as soon as possible," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. 

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade, and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017 accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies it and says the embargo aims to undermine its sovereignty.

Signing in Riyadh summit 

Gulf Arab leaders are expected to gather in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for an annual summit that is expected to announce a deal towards ending the rift.

Under the emerging agreement, the four countries will end the blockade of Qatar, and in exchange, Qatar will not pursue lawsuits related to the blockade, the official said.

"At the signing on the 5th, leadership from the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt will be coming together to sign an agreement that will end the blockade and put an end to the Qatari lawsuits," the official said.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will attend the summit on Tuesday, the royal court said on Monday.

Saudi state agency SPA quoted Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying the annual gathering of Gulf leaders would unite Gulf ranks "in the face of challenges facing the region".

US deals in Mideast 

The development 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. 

All of the countries involved in the deals are US allies.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, assigned to work on the dispute by US President Donald Trump, helped negotiate the deal and was working the phones on it until the wee hours of Monday morning, the official said. 

When in December, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said a resolution to the dispute seemed within reach, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a Twitter post said he hoped Gulf reconciliation "contributes to the stability and political and economic development for all peoples of our region."

Kushner, joined by Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, a special State Department adviser, were flying to the Saudi Arabian city of Al Ula to attend the Gulf summit, the official said.

'A massive breakthrough'

If the deal holds, the Gulf dispute will be added to a string of diplomatic victories achieved by the Kushner team, a list that includes normalisation deals last year between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, has been working on other normalisation deals between Israel and other countries in the Arab world but may run out of time with President-elect Joe Biden due to take over the presidency on January 20.

"It's just a massive breakthrough," the official said. 

"The blockade will be lifted. It will allow for travel amongst the countries as well as goods. It will lead to more stability in the region."

Source: Reuters