UAE, Qatar set to restore diplomatic ties and reopen embassies after bitter feud

A general view of the skyline from the Doha Corniche on March 31, 2022.

Nick Potts – Pa Images | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are moving toward restoring diplomatic ties and reopening embassies in each other’s countries, just over two years after the lifting of a blockade on Qatar that encapsulated bitter political discord between the two and in the wider Gulf region.

“Work is underway between the Qatari and Emirati teams to reopen the respective embassies as soon as possible, exact date to be announced upon the finalization of the process,” Qatar’s International Media Office told CNBC in a statement.

The deal to end the three-and-a-half-year political and economic blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain took place in January of 2021, with states vowing to restore relations for the benefit of the region.

The UAE expressed similar aims in a statement from a government official.

“The UAE’s foreign policy is primarily focused on building bridges, economic cooperation and regional deescalation. Since the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration in January 2021, the UAE has restored relations with the State of Qatar, with several visits occurring between the two countries, which included discussions on the further development of relations and of jointly achieving greater mutual prosperity and progress for the two countries and wider region,” the statement said.

“At present, the activation of diplomatic ties, which will include the reopening of embassies, is under process between both countries.”

Akbar al-Baker (3rd-L), Qatar’s Tourism Minister and CEO of Qatar Airways, gives a press conference regarding preparations for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, in the capital Doha on May 26, 2022, while accompanied by Oman Air CEO Abdulaziz al-Raisi, flydubai CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith, and Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy.

Karim Jaafar | Afp | Getty Images

The Western-allied Gulf Cooperation Council states were plunged into turmoil in 2017, when Saudi Arabia and its allies cut off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing the tiny gas-rich nation of being too close to Iran and supporting Islamic terrorism. Doha denied the allegations.

Since the blockade’s end, travel and trade among the states has resumed, with numerous flights going to and from Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in particular; many of them as part of a special shuttle program with Dubai.

Still, the fact that talk of reopening embassies is only happening now is “another reminder of the actual pace of re-establishing ties in the Gulf, within the GCC, and of course within wider region,” Karen Young, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, wrote on Twitter. “Al Ula agreement was over 2 years ago, still working to reopen embassies.”

The development shouldn’t be a surprise, and “comes after a long period of high-level dialogue and visits between the two,” said Anna Jacobs, a senior Gulf analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“Qatar-UAE restoring ties means that all former blockading states (Saudi, Egypt, UAE, & Bahrain) have finally fully resumed diplomatic relations with Qatar (or announced their intention to). A positive for GCC unity, even if tensions/competition (between) them remains a major reality,” Jacobs wrote in a series of Twitter posts.

The apparent push toward greater diplomatic normalization comes amid broader regional reconciliation efforts; longtime foes Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore ties and reopen their respective embassies in March as part of a deal brokered by Beijing.

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