On January 4, 2021, Saudi Arabia and Qatar agreed to reopen airspace, sea and land borders for the first time after three years. Qatar Airways flight operations will no longer be prohibited from Saudi Arabian airspace.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar reached an agreement to open airspace as well as land and sea border,” Qatar News Agency confirmed.
Foreign Minister of the State of Kuwait announced that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar reached an agreement to open airspace as well as land and sea border starting tonight. #QNA— Qatar News Agency (@QNAEnglish) January 4, 2021
The Saudi decision to reopen borders to Qatar came just before the summit of regional leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia on January 5, 2021. Qatar’s leader attends the summit for the first time since the 2017 dispute that cut off travel, trade and diplomatic ties between the neighbouring countries.
The United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash noted that the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would “restore Gulf cohesion”.
نحن أمام قمة تاريخية بامتياز في العلا نعيد من خلالها اللحمة الخليجية ونحرص عبرها أن يكون أمن وإستقرار وإزدهار دولنا وشعوبنا الأولوية الأولى، أمامنا المزيد من العمل ونحن في الإتجاه الصحيح.— د. أنور قرقاش (@AnwarGargash) January 4, 2021
Currently, as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit continues, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have not issued new NOTAMS, ending the blockade.
In June 2017, Qatar was accused of supporting terrorism by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain as well as Egypt. As part of the wider blockade, the four countries imposed sanctions on Qatari aviation by locking out their airspaces.
The Gulf blockade had significantly changed the flight operations of the national air carrier of Qatar, Qatar Airways, as the flying time and mileage increased due to necessary detours.
Regarding financial damages caused by the Gulf blockade, Qatar Airways demanded compensation from four blockading states in July 2020. The claim was based on ICAO airspace agreements that have been signed in the past. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favor of Qatar in the Gulf airspace blockade dispute.