Saudi, Qatar establish new co-ordination council in another sign of geo-political reset

Originally posted to The Middle East Monitor website, 27 August 2021

In another indication of what has been described as a geo-political reset in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Qatar signed an agreement yesterday for establishing a coordination council to improve relations between them.

It’s not long ago that the two Gulf kingdoms were locked in a bitter three-year feud that saw relations drop to their lowest point in history. The Saudis joined forces with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, to impose a blockade on their neighbour back in 2017. In July last year the UN top court ruled in a 16-1 decision that the blockade was illegal, but it wasn’t until the beginning of this year when the Arab states decided to end its campaign to isolate Doha.

The Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council will be under the co-chairmanship of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The signing of the protocol was made by Minister of State and Acting Foreign Minister Dr Musaed Al-Aiban and Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Muhammad Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The two ministers met yesterday in the Saudi city NEOM and discussed ways to further improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

It’s said that the Coordination Council will be a comprehensive framework for strengthening bilateral relations and pushing the partnership between the two countries to broader horizons in accordance with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 and Qatar’s 2030 Vision.

This initiative comes as the region looks to kick-off a geo-political reset. The effect of COVID-19 and the change of administration in the US are said to have forced a desire for de-escalation in tension amongst the various competing powers.

“Everybody is fed up with how complicated things have been. And don’t underestimate the economic effect of Covid and saying ‘look, we will not be able to go forward unless we stabilise things politically’,” a senior Arab official is reported saying in the Financial Times.

Diplomats and analysts have cautioned that it is a cold peace; a pragmatic shift after the tumultuous period of Donald Trump’s presidency. “This [de-escalation] is fragile and reversible because it is a product of temporary regional circumstances . . . not a widespread change in mindsets,” said Emile Hokayem at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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