After years of dispute, there’s been a breakthrough at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit.
The first direct flights between Qatar and two of the blockading nations – Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – took to the skies on Monday following the end of a three and a half year regional crisis earlier this month.
In June 2017, 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.
Qatar repeatedly denied the claims and said there was no justification for severing relations. A blockade was also imposed by the four countries by land, sea and air.
Earlier this month, the four countries signed a declaration at the Gulf summit with Qatar, signalling the end of the blockade.
All four have now announced the reopening of their airspace to Qatar.
On Monday, the first commercial flight from Qatar to Egypt since the blockade, an Egyptair service to Cairo, took off from Doha airport. It was followed shortly by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE.
As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to official statistics, and many were unable to travel home during the crisis.
In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy. Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.
A Qatar Airways plane was also due to make a trip to Cairo later on Monday.
Flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia, which has also opened its land border to Qatar, resumed on January 11.