The statements further raise hope over a possible Qatar-Bahrain reconciliation.
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has expressed the importance of resolving pending matters with Qatar on Monday, as analysts say Manama’s attempts to isolate Doha “failed”.
The Bahraini king’s remarks, made during a weekly cabinet meeting, are the latest signals for incoming reconciliation with Doha following the Gulf Cooperation Council’s worst diplomatic rift.
“King Hamad also stressed the importance of resolving all outstanding issues and matters between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the sisterly State of Qatar in order to achieve the common aspirations of their citizens, preserve the cohesion of the GCC, and safeguard the region’s security and stability,” the Bahraini news agency reported.
The report added that King Hamad “underlined the importance of commitment to implementing all the resolutions of the GCC Supreme Council and the Al-Ula Summit Declaration”.
At the time of the GCC crisis in 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar over claims that it supports terrorism. Doha dismissed those claims as baseless.
While the dispute came to an end in 2021 with the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration, Manama has yet to fully reconcile with Doha, with a notable absence of communications between both countries.
On the other hand, other members of the quartet, namely Saudi Arabia and Egypt, were quick to resume ties with Qatar.
“Since January 2021, Bahraini-Qatari relations have been the weakest link in the Al-Ula process of Gulf reconciliation. Whereas Doha’s relationships with Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi have markedly improved over the past two years, tensions between Qatar and Bahrain have lingered,” Giorgio Cafiero, CEO and founder of Gulf State Analytics, told Doha News.
However, more signs have pointed to a thaw in relations between Doha and Manama.
Last week, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman Al Khalifa discussed “outstanding issues” between both countries in the first high-level phone call since the rift.
The Bahraini crown prince also “emphasised the importance of joint efforts to resolve all outstanding issues to achieve the common aspirations shared between the citizens of both countries”.
Cafiero suggested there appears to be a lightbulb moment on the Bahraini end.
“Nonetheless, officials in Manama appear to be realising that Arab efforts to isolate Qatar and pressure the gas-wealthy country into changing its policies and positions failed and that it is most pragmatic to pursue a mending of fences with their counterparts in Doha,” Cafiero said.
The phone call came just days after Sheikh Tamim’s second meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa since the crisis. The two met with other Arab leaders in Abu Dhabi and the meeting had spiked hopes for rapprochement, especially after the two leaders were seen smiling and shaking hands.
“The general trend in the GCC throughout much of the post-Al-Ula period has been toward greater unity, reconciliation, and solidarity among the sub-regional institution’s member-states. Bahraini officials must understand that efforts to resist this trend would likely produce nothing positive for Manama,” Cafiero noted.
However, direct flights between Doha and Manama have yet to resume and embassies of both countries remain shut.
While the World Cup in Qatar was widely viewed as an opportunity to unite the entire globe, particularly the region, Bahraini officials were absent from the tournament.
Analysts have pointed to previous rivalry between Doha and Manama, including territorial disputes dating back decades.
The two countries were on the verge of war in 1986 over disputed territories, including the Zubara, and the Jinan Islands as well as Fasht Al-Dibal.
Other points of contention highlighted by analysts includes Qatar’s cordial ties with Iran, with the former playing a key regional role in attempting to settle differences between countries in the GCC and Tehran.
On Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian confirmed the exchange of messages between Tehran and Manama “through an intermediary”, expressing his country’s openness for dialogue.
Amir-Abdollahian’s comments also came in a joint press conference in Tehran with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
“A history of territorial disputes, Qatari media outlets’ coverage of Bahrain’s domestic affairs, and Doha’s relationship with Tehran are among the major issues that have fuelled tension between Doha and Manama while giving the Bahraini leadership reason to perceive a Qatari threat,” Cafiero said.
The split in each Gulf country’s stance over Iran was prominently highlighted during the regional crisis. The quartet has initially demanded Doha sever its ties with Tehran as part of a list of 13 demands to lift the embargo.
On one hand, there have been major developments with regards to UAE-Iran rapprochement and positive remarks over new rounds of talks between Riyadh and Tehran. On the other hand, there has been no clear initiative for a Bahraini-Iranian rapprochement.
Bahrain has also accused Iran of meddling in its affairs by supporting the country’s Shia community to “rebel against the Sunni leadership” during the widespread pro-democracy protests.