Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Open Borders in Another Deal Overseen by Jared Kushner

In yet another diplomatic Mideast move facilitated by President Donald Trump's administration, the land, air and sea borders between Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been reopened, more than three years after the Kingdom ordered them sealed in a political crisis that has divided the Arabian Peninsula ever since.

The news was first announced Monday by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, who said the decision came at the proposal of Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

"Based on Sheikh Nawaf's proposal, it was agreed to open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar, starting from this evening," Sheikh Ahmad said in a televised message shared through official channels.

Sheikh Ahmad had earlier met with his Qatari counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

The end of the boycott also comes amid reports by outlets such as Reuters and Axios that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and former U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook traveled to Al-Ula to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

A senior administration official confirmed to Newsweek that Kushner "helped to negotiate the deal and was instrumental in making it happen."

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A general view of the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia on June 23, 2017, weeks after Riyadh and its partners cut all ties with Doha and closed all borders with the tiny, oil-rich peninsular state. KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images

Kushner has played a central role in President Donald Trump's Middle East policy, which devised an Israel-Palestinian peace plan and oversaw reconciliation efforts by four Arab states—the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco—with Israel, a traditional foe of Arab countries supportive of a Palestinian state with overlapping territorial claims since the end of British colonialism there in 1948.

When Newsweek spoke with Qatari ambassador to the U.S. Meshal bin Hamad al-Thani in the wake of the UAE and Bahrain deals back in September, the envoy said his emirate "remains committed to the just settlement of the Palestinian cause based on the Arab Peace Initiative and a two-state solution in a way that achieves security and stability in the region."

The Arab Peace Initiative is an agreement devised in 2002 among Arab League states—with the exception of Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively—to forego further normalization with Israel until a solution to its conflict with Palestinians was found.

He also told Newsweek that Qatari officials were "grateful to the U.S. government which, over the past three years, has worked with us to try to bring the illegal blockade of Qatar to an end."

A senior diplomat at Qatar's embassy in Washington welcomed Monday's move in a statement sent to Newsweek.

"This is a step in the right direction and could be a positive development for the region as a whole," the diplomat said. "His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, will head the delegation to tomorrow's summit, and we look forward to the outcomes"

A State Department spokesperson similarly lauded news of the border reopening, and called for further reconciliation.

"We welcome the news of a decision to reopen airspace and borders between Saudi Arabia and Qatar," the spokesperson said. "A resolution of the wider three-year dispute between the Quartet and Qatar is in the interest of all GCC members as well as the interest of the United States."

Land, maritime and aerial crossings were sealed between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in June 2017, just days after Trump and Kushner traveled to former as part of the administration's debut trip to the region.

Riyadh accused Doha of supporting militant groups and criticized its ongoing diplomatic relations with Iran after Riyadh and Tehran cut diplomatic ties the year before. To further isolate Qatar, Saudi Arabia rallied Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in severing relations with Qatar.

The apparent ending of the blockade on Qatar comes on the eve of a summit of the GCC, a bloc of six Arab states along the Persian Gulf. Last Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a formal invitation to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to attend the gathering.