After years of tensions following the boycott against Qatar back in 2017, UAE leader made a surprise visit to his Qatari counterpart to restore ties.
It was on this Monday that in an out-of-the-blue visit to Qatar, the leader of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also serves as the ruler of Abu Dhabi, arrived in Qatar as it hosts the World Cup to meet with his counterpart, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
This is the first visit between the two Gulf leaders since the diplomatic crisis of Qatar back in 2017, in which the UAE, along with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, boycotted Doha over a political dispute.
“I congratulate my brother Tamim bin Hamad and the people of Qatar on hosting the FIFA World Cup and wish them continued success,” Sheikh Mohammed said in an online statement. Upon arriving.
In a similar statement, Sheikh Tamim referred to Sheikh Mohammed as “my brother. And noted that bin Zayed’s “visit allowed us to discuss ways to strengthen brotherly relations between our two countries, and to exchange views on regional and international issues of common concern, foremost of which are ways to support security and stability in the region.”
UAE’s U-turn in policy towards Qatar
Bin Zayed’s enthusiasm in pursuing the policy of rapprochement with Qatar is happening while he was in fact the main architects of the boycott of Qatar that began in 2017.
The anger was rooted in Qatar’s stance in supporting Islamists who rose to power in Egypt and elsewhere following the 2011 Arab Spring. Back then, the Arab Spring uprisings had alarmed many governments in the region, who saw the pro-democracy movements as a threat to their own longstanding dynastic rulers.
Most of the GCC countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia had attempted to shore up the rulers threatened by the uprisings. Qatar, however, followed a contradictory policy and tried to cultivate relationships with some members of the opposition, most notably groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
During the 2011 protests, some countries (most notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE) even sent troops to help a violent crackdown on demonstrations in Bahrain. Good to mention that the boycott began immediately after a visit to the region by then-President Donald Trump early in his presidency.
When Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt broke off relations with Qatar, they denied the small Gulf country access to their airspace and – in the case of Saudi Arabia – closed Doha’s only land border. In addition, all GCC countries ordered their citizens to leave Qatar, giving Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave.
But after almost four years, the boycott, during which the four nations shut off air and sea routes to Qatar, ended in January 2021, with Saudi Arabia first announcing the end of its blockade.
The relations have gone quite well ever since, and just to give an example, the opening ceremony of the World Cup, which coincided with Qatar facing Ecuador in the tournament’s first match, was attended by both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Dubai’s ruler also attended along with his son
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also present at the stadium then, a man whose country provided a vital lifeline to Qatar during the crisis.