Saudi Arabia and Qatar to open airspace, land and sea borders

Qatar has faced a boycott from other Gulf and Arab countries since 2017. (Reuters/File)
Qatar has faced a boycott from other Gulf and Arab countries since 2017. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 05 January 2021

Saudi Arabia and Qatar to open airspace, land and sea borders

Saudi Arabia and Qatar to open airspace, land and sea borders
  • Kuwait announces breakthrough towards resolving Qatar dispute
  • Announcement came on the eve of the GCC summit in AlUla chaired by King Salman

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia reopened its airspace and land and sea borders with Qatar on Monday, in a breakthrough agreement aimed at ending the three-year diplomatic dispute with Doha.
The full deal is expected to be signed on Tuesday at the annual summit of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders in the northwestern Saudi city of AlUla, attended by Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar in June 2017.
Recent mediation efforts have been led by Sheikh Nawaf Al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait. “Based on Sheikh Nawaf’s proposal, it was agreed to open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the state of Qatar, starting from this evening,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah said on Monday.
White House special adviser Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is expected to fly to the Kingdom to witness the signing on Tuesday, along with US Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, a special State Department adviser, Reuters reported.
“We’ve had a breakthrough in the Gulf Cooperation Council rift,” a senior Trump administration official said.
Under the emerging agreement, the four countries will end the blockade of Qatar, and in exchange, Qatar will not pursue lawsuits related to the blockade.
“At the signing on the 5th, leadership from the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt will be coming together to sign an agreement that will end the blockade and put an end to the Qatari lawsuits,” the official said.
“It’s just a massive breakthrough. The blockade will be lifted. It will allow for travel among the countries as well as goods. It will lead to more stability in the region.”
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Monday that the Kingdom’s policy was based on a firm approach that achieved the national interests of the GCC and Arab countries, in order to achieve security and stability.
“The GCC summit will be an inclusive summit, unified in ranks and focused on prosperity … in terms of reunification and solidarity in facing the challenges in our region,” the crown prince said.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said: “More work lies ahead and we are moving in the right direction.”


Rouhani to sue Iran state broadcaster over opium use comments

Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Hassan Rouhani (pictured) could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking opium. (Reuters/File Photo)
Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Hassan Rouhani (pictured) could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking opium. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 23 January 2021

Rouhani to sue Iran state broadcaster over opium use comments

Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Hassan Rouhani (pictured) could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking opium. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • President accused of taking drugs by hardline cleric during live broadcast
  • Latest example of pressure being applied on moderates ahead of June presidential elections

LONDON: Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, is to sue his country’s state broadcaster after he was accused of opium use on national television.

On Friday, the president’s office of legal affairs said Rouhani would pursue damages for defamation after Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Rouhani could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking the drug. 

Alireza Moezi, on behalf of Rouhani’s office, said: “What was broadcast last night was sadly just shameless insult, slander and foul language against the president.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation, which is controlled by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Bozorgi’s institute, which frequently advises the Iranian government, both subsequently distanced themselves from the comments. 

The incident, though, is seen by many as an attempt to undermine Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iranian politics, and his allies by conservative hardliners ahead of the country’s presidential elections later this year.

Rouhani, who will stand down having served two terms, has presided over a period of increasing tensions with the US during the sole term of President Donald Trump, a period in which the hardliners have made significant political gains, whilst failing to oust the president himself.

On Wednesday, Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Communications Minister Mohammad Azari Jahromi were summoned to Parliament to face questions over their relationship with recently-installed US President Joe Biden.

Rouhani said he hoped that US sanctions on Iran would soon be lifted, amid hopes that a change of president in the US could see a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or “Iran Nuclear Deal,” that was sidelined by the US under Trump.

Such a sequence of events, it is thought, would give Rouhani and his allies a significant political win in the build up to the June elections. The move is opposed by the hardliners, though, who favor a stronger stance on the US.

“We do not need the nuclear deal anymore. Our strength comes from the fact that we have kept our existence without it,” said Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

One radical member of parliament, meanwhile, said Iran should look to “impeach” Rouhani, following the example of Democrat senators in the US towards Trump, amid claims the trio were “friends” of the new administration in Washington.