The rift between several Arab countries and Qatar is purely political and not ideological, therefore portraying the recent reconciliation as a retreat or defeat is completely unjustified, nor does reconciliation mean that the boycott was wrong.
Relations with Qatar were severed on June 5, 2017, and restored on January 5, 2020, a long time compared to previous Gulf crises. Despite the seriousness of the rift, no bullets were fired across the border, unlike similar regional disputes that often end in bloodshed.
During the past 40 months, I think that Qatar has fulfilled most of what was expected of it; Muslim Brotherhood leaders and most of the opponents of the four countries imposing the embargo have left, and the country corrected its banking systems in question in compliance with US financial authorities. We no longer hear about the payment of ransoms, nor the financing of groups within the boycotting countries, and Qatar has transferred most of its media operations from Doha to other countries. This demonstrates Qatar’s considerable efforts in reconciling with the four countries behind the boycott: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. It is high time to settle the remaining disputes in order to resume normal life.
A problem grows and becomes impossible to solve when we raise the ceiling of expectations in the real world that has its practical considerations, and although the reconciliation may not satisfy all our wishes, it remains a positive step for all. We may see more steps in the coming months to increase cooperation between the five countries in question. Achieving harmony between them has positive regional repercussions, as it will promote a climate of reconciliation between other countries of the region that are engaged in conflicts and disputes. And as His Highness Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated, “The policy of your brothers in the stable Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia]... places at the top of its priorities a unified and strong GCC.”
And if this spirit of reconciliation continues as it started yesterday in the historic city of AlUla, then the GCC itself, if activated, can serve as a strong and influential bloc, healing the internal rift that has plagued it for so long. I do not want to exaggerate the expectations of reconciliation, but it is a bold and significant step. We cannot let it be destroyed by those inside and outside the Gulf states, who have worked for many years to sabotage the relationship between countries, when there is no single “rational” reason to cause such a dispute.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.