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Picture Credit: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
This year, the United Arab Emirates announced that it would put its differences aside by reopening its border and airspace to its Gulf neighbour Qatar, a tiny wealthy nation that has been in dispute with UAE since 2017. On his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Qatar's emir was greeted by the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the local media that "We need to be realistic about the need to restore confidence and restore cohesion". The deal's official documents are not in the public domain, but several media outlets report that the initial demands made of Qatar by the four countries were replaced by broad agreement on principles including non-intervention in others' internal affairs and cooperating to confront threats to regional security. For Qatar, the deal will not alter its foreign policies or its refusal to meet 13 demands imposed during negotiations between UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Bahrain.
The agreement signifies solidarity to fight against Iran, threatening the United States and increasing its nuclear arsenal capacity. It could further squeeze Tehran funds that were provided by Qatar for Iran's airspace. For example, Qatar Airways employed routes through Iranian skies. Analysts estimate the move had given the Islamic Republic hundreds of millions of dollars in overflight fees. The New York Times reported that Qatar has been paying an estimated $100 million annually to route planes through Iranian airspace. However, the airline has now been using Saudi airspace with some flights cruising over Saudi skies from Doha to Johannesburg, South Africa.
In response to the deal, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif congratulated Qatar on Twitter. However, according to political analysts, the deal might look good on paper but still brings challenges. Last week Qatar news outlets Al Jazeera hammered Saudi Authorities for sentencing Women's right activist. Similarly, Bahrain has been continuously arguing with Qatar over feuds such as constraining fishers in contested waters.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister tweeting about UAE and Qatar deal
Qatar and UAE's deal is significant for the Trump administration, trying to end disputes between Gulf nations. Moreover, the essential part of this deal represents the fight against Iran. On January 4, it was reported that Iran has renewed enriching uranium to 20% purity, a level that is nine-tenths of the process to weapons-grade.
Over the past two years, Iran has been violating all the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump, to counter Iran's nuclear ability. Jared Kushner, Trump's son in law and adviser, pushed months to make this deal successful. However, the agreement does not reflect sunlight on President Trump's dark days in the White House. With this in mind, Saudis are aware that President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats in the White House are not pleased with UAE’s involvement in the Yemen War and murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And with rumours of Joe Biden backing Iran's 2015 nuclear deal brings a ton of pressure on the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's shoulders. Therefore, the agreement with Qatar, buys Saudis some patting on the back from Washington.