In another indication of geopolitical reset in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Qatar signed an agreement on 27 Aug 2021 to establish a coordination council to improve their diplomatic relations.
Saudi’s minister signed the protocol of state Dr Musaed Al- Aiban and Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Muhammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in the city of Neom.
The Saudi-Qatari coordination council will officially operate under the chairmanship of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad.
It’s not long ago that the two Gulf kingdoms were locked in a bitter three-year feud that saw relations drop to their lowest point in history. In 2017, Saudi joined forces with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to lead an Arab transport blockade against Qatar.
The more significant motivation probably was to pressure Qatar to reduce its diplomatic ties with Iran, Saudi’s greatest rival in the region.
The Arab Coalitions put 13 demands as conditions to resume relations, including shutting news organizations such as Al Jazeera, closing a Turkish military base in the country, and downgrading ties with Tehran.
Qatar termed the embargo as a violation of law and instead strengthened its relations with Iran and turkey.
In July last year, even the UN’s top court termed the blockade as illegal.
But it wasn’t until the beginning of this year when the Arab states decided to end their campaign to isolate Doha.
Covid-19 and Change in Administration
Given the close relations between the US and Qatar, it was shocking when the former president Donald Trump expressed support for Saudi led embargo and calling Qatar a ‘funder of terror’.
Effect of Covid-19, change of administration in the US has been said to have forced a desire to de-escalate tension amongst the various competing powers.
And the current initiative comes as the region looks to kick-off a geopolitical reset.
One of the senior Arab officials quoted in his statement that “everybody is fed up with how complicated things have been, and we will not be able to go forward unless we stabilize things politically”.
He also mentioned how this coordination council would work as a comprehensive framework for strengthening bilateral relations and pushing the partnership between the two countries to broader horizons per 2030’s vision.
Many diplomats and analysts have cautioned that this is somewhat a ‘cold peace formula’ that emerged due to the pragmatic shift.
They termed the de-escalation as fragile and reversible, as it is a product of temporary, regional circumstances and not a widespread change in mindsets.