Reports today suggest that several Middle East states could be on the verge of signing an agreement to remove the blockade imposed on the state of Qatar. On the eve of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Tuesday, the news suggests that the three-year dispute is coming to an end. The move will be significant for the state of Qatar, and of course, for its flag-carrying airline Qatar Airways.
A signing in Saudi Arabia could end the blockade
The long-running dispute between Qatar and its neighboring Arab nations looks set to ease this week, as a senior Trump official has said that an agreement will be passed tomorrow. The three-year-old disagreement has seen Qatar Airways blocked from neighboring airspace, as well as restricting land and sea movements.
An official from the Trump administration spoke anonymously to Reuters today, saying that, “We’ve had a breakthrough in the Gulf Cooperation Council rift.” The person said that an agreement would be signed in Saudi Arabia tomorrow, which would end the rift between the countries.
The agreement would see the opening of land, air, and sea borders and an end to the dispute, which has hampered the Qatari airline for so many years. It’s the latest in a series of Middle East deals that have been targeted by Washington, which have included the easing of tensions between the Middle East and Israel.
Notice of the signing of the agreement tomorrow came from the Middle East also, with Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s foreign minister, stating on national TV that,
“Based on (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.”
What does this mean for Qatar Airways?
It was June 2017 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and becoming too close to Iran. The accusation came with the severance of diplomatic and economic ties, including the land, sea, and air blockade.
The result of this has been that Qatar Airways has been forced to take long diversions in order to reach Doha from everywhere else on the planet. Instead of traversing a direct path across Saudi Arabia’s enormous airspace, the airline has been forced to fly out of its way to avoid the blockade, adding fuel costs and unnecessary CO2 emissions to its operations.
— Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) January 4, 2021
The airline has long admonished the implementation of the blockade, claiming it is illegal and unfounded. Indeed, at FlightGlobal’s Airlines 2050 event last autumn, CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker used his keynote address to drive home his dissatisfaction with the situation, saying that,
“While this illegal blockade has been ongoing for more than three years, we should never allow these illegal actions to be normalized. Threats to the safety and normalcy of International Civil Aviation should never be an acceptable tool for political posturing, and the international community must not allow the current actions to set the precedent for using freedom of navigation as a weapon to harm our country and its people.
“At Qatar Airways, we firmly believe that travel is the right for all, and that this world is all of ours to explore.”
The airline had been seeking legal assistance to remove the blockade. Now, it seems that one of Trump’s last actions in office could be to stabilize relationships in the Middle East, allowing Qatar and its airline to enjoy the freedom of movement it has not had in recent years.