UAE, Qatar reopen embassies after years of political rift

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates and Qatar announced the restoration of their diplomatic representation as their embassies resumed operations on Monday after years of a political standoff that began in 2017. 

The reinstatement of embassy activity takes place during a broader drive of Gulf Arab states to reconcile with their neighbors, including Syria and Iran this year. 

What happened: The UAE and Qatar reopened their respective embassies on Monday after the Gulf states agreed to reinstate diplomatic ties, according to statements from both governments. 

The Emirati and Qatari foreign ministers held a phone call ahead of the two embassies resuming their diplomatic functions, according to the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Why it matters: The Gulf dispute began in June 2017 with the suspension of diplomatic ties and a blockade on Qatar imposed by Egypt and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council Countries Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Qatar was accused of supporting extremism because of its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood — which the four blockading countries had branded a terrorist organization — and for maintaining economic ties with Iran, with which Qatar shares its largest natural gas field. 

The three-and-a-half-year blockade of almost all trade, work and travel by air, land and sea ended in January 2021 with the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration in Saudi Arabia between the involved countries, brokered by the United States and Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt were the first to reappoint ambassadors to Doha that same year, while Bahrain has not reopened its embassy in Doha. 

Background:  Since the UAE and Qatar reconciled in January 2021, expressions of warming relations followed. 

In January of 2022, Qatar publicly condemned the Houthi drone attack that targeted three fuel tanker trucks near Abu Dhabi and caused fires at the international airport that killed three people, labeling it a terrorist act. 

The following month, Qatari and Emirati delegations met for the third time since the signing of the 2021 Al-Ula Declaration. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai, accompanied Dubai Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to the opening of the World Cup in November hosted by Doha. 

The Dubai ruler praised Qatar’s successful hosting of the tournament as an achievement for the entire Arab region. 

The UAE also granted multiple-entry visas for Hayya cardholders — the identification and means of entry into Qatar for ticket holders of the global games — with many World Cup attendees traveling back and forth between Doha and the UAE. 

In January 2023, Qatar’s Emir Al-Thani attended a presidential meeting hosted in the UAE capital that aimed to consolidate and deepen ties between countries of the GCC as well as Egypt and Jordan. 

In early March 2023, the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani received the UAE’s national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Deputy Prime Minister of the Presidential Court Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed to discuss “fraternal relations” and how to strengthen various domains of mutual interest, reported the governmental Emirates News Agency. 

Days after the meeting, the UAE unblocked a number of Qatar news websites after more than seven years. The websites included Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera English and the New Arab. 

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