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Monday, October 18, 2021

What we know: Details on the Qatar-Saudi agreement


The world awaits the long-anticipated signing of the deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia at the 41st GCC Summit that would mark the end of the three-year dispute that divided the Gulf region.

The Gulf region witnessed a historic announcement on Monday evening that effectively ends the three-year-blockade on Qatar. While the signing ceremony is yet to be held in Saudi Arabia, details on the agreement have emerged.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia was close to falling through on Sunday over “last-minute miscommunication” that “created new tensions between the Saudis and the Qataris”, Axios reported.

A person familiar with the matter said the White House and other parties swiftly took action to hold together the deal, making several calls to finally reach agreement.

As part of the deal, the four blockading countries will drop the list of 13 demands while Qatar is to drop lawsuits filed against the quartet, the source revealed. All parties will also stop their media campaigns against each other, according to reports by Axios and The Washington Post.

While the exact lawsuits still remain unclear, they will likely be disclosed at the summit held on Tuesday.

A report by The Washington Post said the deal included Qatar “freezing” its legal actions against the blockading countries at the World Trade Organisation [WTO] among many other institutions.

Read also: BREAKING: Saudi-Qatar border opens after three-year blockade

Steps towards reconciliation began emerging after Senior US advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who will be present to witness the signing of the deal, made a visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar several weeks ago, where he met with senior officials from both countries.

Following Kushner’s meetings with Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, the US advisor left “close aides” behind and departed to Qatar, where he also met Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Virginia-based news website,  Axios revealed.

The two officials he left in Riyadh were White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and adviser Brian Hook, both of which reportedly mediated talks between the two Gulf countries over the phone in real time until a draft deal was eventually reached.

Early on Monday, Kushner departed on a flight towards Saudi Arabia to attend the ceremony in the kingdom’s Al-Ula.

The White House also lobbied the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, all of which have clearly shown less enthusiasm to reconcile with Qatar, Axios reported. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the three countries delayed issuing statements to welcome Kuwait’s efforts to hold negotiations.

The Washington Post also reported that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had disagreed over ending the boycott, as Riyadh “wanted to end the blockade and didn’t want to have this issue remain on its plate as the Biden Administration comes into office”.

Meanwhile, a diplomat from one of the Gulf countries told Axios that a full resolution is not guaranteed, with only “some of the issues solved”.

This is due to “bad personal relationships between the leaders and big policy differences on Iran, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood,” the source said.

This changed on the evening of January 4 when Saudi Arabia lifted all air, land and sea restrictions on Qatar following a three-year blockade.

Monday’s announcement came after several hopeful statements made by officials from Doha, Riyadh and Kuwait, the latter of which has been a key force to mediating between the Gulf states throughout the crisis, even after the passing of its former leader Amir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

Details of the deal will be announced on Tuesday, as countries meet in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, for the 41st GCC Summit, where the deal will be signed in the presence of Sheikh Tamim, Kuwait’s Amir Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, among many others.

It also remains unclear whether Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will be attending as previous reports suggested, as his country was part of the blockading countries.

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