Gulf Arab leaders arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a summit focused on ending a long-running dispute with Qatar, as Washington pushes for a united Gulf front to contain Iran.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was greeted in the historic city of al-Ula by de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two men, wearing face masks, embraced on the tarmac.
Before the gathering, Kuwait announced that Saudi Arabia, which along with allies boycotted Doha in mid-2017, would reopen its airspace and borders to Qatar under a deal that a senior US official said would be signed in the presence of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar over allegations Doha supports terrorism, a charge it denies.
The official said Kushner, assigned to work on the dispute by US President Donald Trump, helped negotiate the deal and was making phone calls on it until the early hours of Monday morning.
The breakthrough is the latest in a series of Middle East deals sought by Washington – the others involving Israel and Arab states – aimed at building a united front against Iran.
Other Gulf leaders arrived in al-Ula earlier and a source said Egypt’s foreign minister would attend the annual summit, postponed from its December date as Riyadh worked for a deal.
While Riyadh made clear it intended to lift the embargo, the other three states did not immediately comment on the issue.
But the US official said “it’s our expectation” they would also join. Under the emerging deal, Qatar will suspend lawsuits related to the boycott, the official said.