Bahrain, Qatar to restore relations
RIYADH TALKS SEEK SYRIA RETURN TO ARAB SURROUNDINGS
DUBAI, April 13, (Agencies): The Gulf nations of Bahrain and Qatar agreed to restore diplomatic relations late Wednesday. Bahrain had been the last holdout of four Arab nations that imposed a boycott on Qatar in 2017. They were angered by Qatar’s support for Islamist groups that rose to power in some countries following the 2011 Arab Spring protests, which the other autocratic nations viewed as terrorist organizations.
The boycott was lifted at the start of 2021, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have restored ties with Qatar since then, with top leaders paying official visits in recent months. Bahrain and Qatar each issued official statements announcing the decision to restore relations following a meeting between their delegations at the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation bloc of which both are members, in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The four nations had severed all ties to Qatar, and at the height of the crisis there was even talk in local media of digging a trench along the 87-kilometer (54-mile) border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and filling it with nuclear waste . The boycott had little impact on Qatar’s economy, however. The tiny Gulf country, which hosted soccer’s World Cup last year, is one of the wealthiest countries on Earth owing to its vast natural gas reserves.
Turkey, which is also friendly to Islamist groups, stepped in to aid Qatar during the crisis. Wednesday’s agreement comes amid region-wide efforts by longtime enemies to repair relations following years of war and unrest. Meanwhile, Syria and Saudi Arabia are moving toward reopening embassies and resuming flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a decade, the countries said Thursday in a joint statement. The announcement followed a visit by Syria’s top diplomat to the kingdom, the first since Saudi Arabia to cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012. Syria was widely shunned by Arab governments over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters and later civilians, in an uprising. turned civil war that began in 2011.
The breakdown in relations culminated with Syria being ousted from the Arab League. However, in recent years, as Assad has consolidated control over most of the country, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps toward rapprochement. The overtures have picked up pace since the massive Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the Chinese-brokered reestablishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, regional rivals that had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.
A delegation headed by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, at the invitation of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for talks about bilateral relations between the two countries, state media from the two countries reported. Saudi state media reported that Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad was received by the kingdom’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji.
The meeting focused on the steps needed to reach a “comprehensive political settlement of the Syrian crisis that would … achieve national reconciliation, and contribute to the return of Syria to its Arab fold,” the two countries said in a joint statement. Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit in May, where a restoration of Syria’s membership is widely expected to be on the table. The two sides also discussed “the importance of enhancing security and combating terrorism in all its forms, and enhancing cooperation in combating drug smuggling and dealing,” the statement said. Syria is a primary producer of the amphetamine-based drug Captagon, which is largely smuggled into Gulf markets for sale.
The talks also focused on “the need to support … the Syrian state to extend its control over its territories to end the presence of armed militias and external interference in the Syrian internal affairs,” as well as on facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid and the return of Syrian refugees. The visit to Saudi Arabia came after Syria announced Wednesday that it will reopen its embassy in Tunisia, which cut off relations in 2012. Tunisian President Kais Saied announced earlier this month that he had directed the country’s foreign ministry to appoint a new ambassador to Syria. His move was reciprocated by the Syrian government, a joint statement from the two countries’ foreign ministries said Wednesday, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.
In other news, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has welcomed the Saudi “extraordinary efforts to pursue a more comprehensive roadmap for ending the war in Yemen.” In a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman, Sullivan offered also expressed full US support for those efforts, noting that Special Envoy Tim Lenderking will be in the region over the coming days, according to a White House statement on Wednesday. .
The State Department announced that US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking traveled to the Gulf on April 11 to support ongoing efforts to secure a new agreement on a comprehensive peace process. “After over a year of intensive US and UN diplomatic efforts and support from regional partners like Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen is witnessing an unprecedented opportunity for peace,” reads a statement by the State Department. It pointed out that the UN-mediated truth, which began in April 2022, laid the foundation for renewed peace efforts while delivering tangible benefits to the Yemeni people.
The European Union (EU) Wednesday welcomed “regional initiatives” to de-escalation in Yemen and called on parties to engage with United Nations Special Envoy Hans Grundberg in mediation efforts. “The EU reaffirms its principled commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen, and to supports UN peace efforts and United Nations Special Envoy Hans Grundberg (UNSE) in mediation efforts,” said EU spokesperson for foreign relations and security policy , Nabila Massrali, in an exclusive statement to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA). “The EU welcomes regional initiatives leading to de-escalation and calls on all parties to engage constructively with UNSE Grundberg on an extended and expanded instrument, which can pave the way for a ceasefire and for a comprehensive and inclusive peace process under UN auspices.” she said.
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