MIAMI – Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have ended their airspace ban on Qatari aircraft following landmark agreement.
Egypt’s state media outlet ahram.com reported today that the country was ending its three and one-half year airspace ban on Qatar. The Head of Egypt’s Civil Aviation Authority, Ashraf Noweir, said today that Egypt officially reopened its airspace to Qatari aircraft this morning.
Bahrain also opened its airspace to Qatar on Monday, its Civil Aviation Affairs Department said, after an agreement to resolve a dispute between Arab nations and Doha was signed last week.
On Friday, the UAE said it, too, would reopen all of its land, sea and air entry points with Qatar starting on Saturday.
The decisions to the lift airspace bans on Qatar allows the four countries’ airlines to operate flights to and from Qatar. They can also exchange flight schedules among the various civil authorities for approval.
Ahram.org reports that Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed after the signing of the agreement last week the need to build on this step of reconciliation with Qatar to enhance joint Arab work and relations. Shoukry said that these relations should be based on goodwill and non-interference in the Arab countries’ domestic affairs.
Egypt and its Gulf allies – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain – imposed an embargo on Qatar in June 2017 over allegations it supports “terrorism”.
Qatar has always denied the claims.
Blockade Ends After Summit
According to information on aljazeera.com, the blockade ended following a summit in Saudi Arabia last week. There, Egypt expressed its support for regional reconciliation but had stopped short of announcing concrete steps to end the boycott.
After three and a half years of severed diplomatic and economic ties, the four boycotting countries signed a declaration with Qatar at the annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit last week to end the dispute.
The dispute had shattered the GCC and troubled the United States’ foreign policy in the region, including its efforts to isolate Iran. Last week’s breakthrough followed a final push by the outgoing Trump administration and Kuwait to mediate the dispute.
Saudi Arabia seeks to unify Arab ranks ahead of the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Most in the Middle East expect the administration to take a firmer stand towards the kingdom and re-engage with Iran.
As reported earlier this month on this website, the Qatar–Saudi Arabia diplomatic conflict, sometimes referred to as the Second Arab Cold War, is the ongoing struggle for regional influence between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (KSA), both of which are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Qatar–Saudi Arabia relations have been especially strained since the beginning of the Arab Spring that left a power vacuum both states sought to fill. Qatar was supportive of the revolutionary wave while Saudi Arabia opposed it.
Both states are allies of the United States, and have avoided direct conflict with one another.
One apparent reason Washington was eager to see this dispute resolve is that Iran, certainly not a US ally, has benefited financially. The air embargo forced flights to and from Qatar to use Iranian airspace.
Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner reg. A7-BCG taking off from Zurich International Airport (ZRH). Photo: Alberto Cucini – @ac_avphoto