‘Important step’: Reaction to Saudi-Qatar border opening

Officials in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey among first to welcome the move to reopen borders with Qatar.

Abu Samra border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Qatar [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Saudi Arabia has reopened its land border with Qatar and Kuwait’s foreign minister has said the kingdom’s airspace and sea border will open, too, before the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit that is set to take place in Saudi’s Al-Ula province on Tuesday.

Monday’s announcement could pave the way towards resolving a political dispute that led Riyadh and its allies to impose a boycott on Qatar more than three years ago.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel boycott on Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism” and having ties with Iran that were deemed too close.

Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and de-facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman said the GCC summit will be “inclusive”, leading the states towards “reunification and solidarity in facing the challenges of our region”.

Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, described the upcoming summit as “historic”.

“We stand before a historic summit in Al-Ula, through which we restore our Gulf cohesion and ensure that security, stability and prosperity is our top priority,” he said on Twitter. “We have more work ahead and we are headed in the right direction.”

Nayef Mubarak Al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the six-member GCC, also welcomed the move.

“The step, which comes ahead of the 41st GCC summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, reflects the great interest and sincere efforts being made to ensure the success of the summit, which is held in light of extraordinary circumstances,” Al-Hajraf said.

Turkey also “welcomed” the decision, its foreign ministry saying in a statement that it was “an important step towards resolving the dispute”.

The ministry praised efforts by Kuwait and other international players to end the crisis.

“Our wish is that this dispute will be completely and permanently resolved on the basis on mutual respect for countries’ sovereignty and that other sanctions against the people of Qatar will be lifted as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The European Union on Tuesday also  welcomed the opening of borders and airspace between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Speaking in daily press briefing, EU spokesperson Peter Stano said “this will hopefully lead to restoring the unity of the GCC and towards the resumption of the full cooperation within this regional grouping”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies