After three and a half years of physical and political isolation, Qatar is to be welcomed back into the GCC fold after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt have agreed to restore diplomatic relations with the sovereign state.
On 5th January 2021, the Al Ula Declaration was signed with Qatar during the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council Summit at Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia. All the participating states have agreed not to “infringe on the sovereignty, threaten the security or target the social fabric” of the other participating states. On announcing the signing the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Anwar Gargash said that the move is aimed at ensuring “that the security, stability and prosperity of our countries and people are the first priority”.
While it is still too early to know how the Declaration will be implemented, it is a positive step for industries and businesses which have been hard-hit by the blockade.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have announced the re-opening of their land, air and sea borders to Qatar, and Bahrain plans to follow suit shortly. With this will likely come a boost to commerce across all sectors, especially hospitality and tourism sectors which are already suffering due to the global pandemic.
Interestingly, Qatar has issued a number of legal claims against the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain since the blockade. For example, in July 2020, Qatar Airways commenced proceedings against these countries seeking damages of no less than USD 5 billion. Other claims include those relating to the suspension of postal services and pharmaceutical investments. Initial reports suggest that a condition of the Declaration is that Qatar will withdraw its claims relating to the blockade but it remains to be seen whether this is part of the deal.