Saudi Arabia will shortly open their airspace and land border with Qatar; easing Gulf tensions and restoring vital air corridors, that have been disrupted since 2017.
The move is a breakthrough not only for relations between Doha and Saudi Arabia, but also for the Gulf aviation sector and in particular Qatar Airways.
Qatar’s national carrier no longer has to divert aircraft around Saudi Arabia, after the Kingdom agreed to open their airspace to Qatar on the eve of a GCC summit.
Once critical to Qatar’s influx of raw materials, to drive their economic growth, the Saudi border has only been briefly opened over the past three years, to allow Qatari citizens to enter as part of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage.
For airlines, on both sides of the border, the softening of hostilities will be welcomed, although it remains to be seen what concessions may now come into play.
The breakthrough was first announced by Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammad Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s foreign minister and a key mediator throughout the rift. However, ending the Qatar blockade has been one of Washington’s key aims; it may well be a legacy move of the Trump administration, ahead of Joe Biden’s swearing-in.
Qatar Airways has remained silent in the immediate aftermath of the diplomatic developments.
Saudi’s deal with Qatar follows the Abraham Accords in September, which resulted in the normalisation of relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.