Saudi Arabia to lift Qatar blockade, open borders

In a diplomatic breakthrough, Saudi Arabia is set to open its borders and airspace to neighboring Qatar following a prolonged crisis. Saudi efforts to isolate Qatar were reportedly set to end on Monday, with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Amhad Nasser Al Sabah announcing that Riyadh would be opening “the airspace and land and sea borders” between Saudi Arabia and Qatar “starting from this evening.” The announcement comes ahead of a Gulf leaders’ summit in the desert city of Al-Ula on Tuesday.

In June 2017, the blockading countries – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – accused Qatar, among other things, of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran and severed economic and diplomatic ties. They also imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar. Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations. Kuwait has been mediating between Qatar and four Arab states. The bloc also set out 13 demands for Qatar, including closing the Al Jazeera news network and downgrading links with Iran.

Qatar, which is home to the largest US military base in the region, said the boycott aimed to undermine the country’s national sovereignty. The nation has some 2.3 million inhabitants, the overwhelming majority of whom are expats, and shares its only land border with the much larger Saudi Arabia.