Five years since Qatar blockade: what changed and what remains unchanged in GCC?

The blockade was imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in 2017 over accusations that the Gulf state supports terrorism.

It’s been five years since the Gulf region saw its most serious dispute in years, resulting in a major split.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) faced severe tensions between June 5, 2017 and January 5, 2021, with some being resolved when the Al-Ula Accord was signed at the 41st GCC Summit in Saudi Arabia. Other issues remain unresolved.

Doha has positioned itself as a diplomatic force more than a year after the end of the blockade. Despite the positive rapprochement with its GCC neighbours, tensions lurk beneath the surface.

We examine what has changed and what has remained the same one year after the agreement was signed.

Signing of Al-Ula declaration

The long-awaited end of a three-year dispute that began on 5 June, 2017 was announced on 5 January, 2021. The Al Ula Summit reaffirmed the GCC member states’ commitment to the region’s political and economic stability.

The night before the agreement, Saudi Arabia’s airspace, land, and sea borders with Qatar were reopened.

High-level meetings

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has met with senior Saudi and Emirati officials since the Al-Ula declaration, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE’s National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Doha-Manama relations

Bahrain still does not appear to be fully on board more than a year after Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” statement in Saudi Arabia, ending the three-and-a-half-year blockade on Qatar.

On 11th January 2o21, Bahrain’s civil aviation authority announced that the state will open its airspace to Qatar. However, there remains no direct flights between the two countries to this day.

UAE and Bahrain have not re-assigned an ambassador to Qatar

Despite Saudi Arabia and Egypt reinstating their diplomatic missions in Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have yet to do so.

The Bahraini embassy in Qatar has also remained closed.

Saudi piracy outlet ‘beoutQ’ closed

Shortly after the start of the blockade, Saudi Arabia banned the the Qatari sports broadcasting giant BeIN Sports and began promoting its own illegal streaming service known as ‘beoutQ’.

In June 2020, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) found that Saudi Arabia had breached its obligations by refusing to take legal action against the Riyadh-linked pirate broadcaster.

The outlet was illegally broadcasting content from Qatar’s beIN Sports, but transmission has since stopped.


Link: DohaNews