Bahrain, Qatar announce restoration of diplomatic ties

US hails rapprochement between Gulf Cooperation Council members, after Manama was last holdout of four Arab nations that imposed boycott and blockade on Doha in 2017

This combination of file photos shows Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (L) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci and Hussein Malla, File)
This combination of file photos shows Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (L) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci and Hussein Malla, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Gulf nations of Bahrain and Qatar agreed to restore diplomatic relations late Wednesday.

Bahrain had been the last holdout of four Arab nations that imposed a boycott and blockade on Qatar in 2017. They were angered by Qatar’s support for Islamist groups that rose to power in some countries following the 2011 Arab Spring protests, which the other autocratic nations viewed as terrorist organizations.

The blockade was lifted at the start of 2021, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have restored ties with Qatar since then, with top leaders paying official visits in recent months.

Bahrain and Qatar each issued official statements announcing the decision to restore relations following a meeting between their delegations at the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation bloc of which both are members, in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

The four nations had severed all ties to Qatar, and at the height of the crisis there was even talk in local media of digging a trench along the 87-kilometer (54-mile) border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and filling it with nuclear waste.

The boycott had little impact on Qatar’s economy, however. The tiny Gulf country, which hosted soccer’s World Cup last year, is one of the wealthiest countries on Earth owing to its vast natural gas reserves. Turkey, which is also friendly to Islamist groups, stepped in to aid Qatar during the crisis.

Wednesday’s announcement was hailed by the White House.

“The United States has been working since the start of the Biden Administration to encourage regional integration, de-escalation, and rapprochement between US partners,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “A fully unified Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Bahrain and Qatar are key members, is also an important step towards establishing a more stable and prosperous Middle East region, including through more integrated commercial, economic, and defense arrangements.”

(L to R) Asaad bin Tariq al-Said, Omani Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs and the Special Representative of the Sultan; UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan; Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa; US President Joe Biden; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Jordan’s King Abdullah II; Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; Kuwait’s Crown Prince Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah; and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi pose together for the family photo during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit (GCC+3) at a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 16, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP)

The agreement comes amid regionwide efforts by longtime enemies to repair relations following years of war and unrest sparked by the 2011 protests.

Saudi Arabia welcomed Syria’s foreign minister earlier Wednesday. It was the latest sign that the Arab League might be ready to reinstate Damascus after suspending its membership more than a decade ago as Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Last month, Saudi Arabia and its main regional rival, Iran, agreed to restore diplomatic ties that had been severed in 2016, in an agreement brokered by China.

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