The latest major development comes after Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa expressed the importance of resolving pending matters with Qatar
Direct flights between Qatar and Bahrain are expected to resume “soon” with both countries engaging in talks over the matter, Manama’s transportation minister Mohammed Al Kaabi confirmed on Tuesday.
Al Kaabi’s remarks came during a Bahraini Parliament session, where he noted that there is “acceptance” from both sides over the major development, according to a Asharq News report.
“The issue of the agreement remains on the agenda and is under review,” Al Kaabi said, noting the economic, social and commercial benefits of linking Manama with other countries.
“We strive as much as possible to activate these agreements,” he added.
The latest major development comes just a day after Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa expressed the importance of resolving pending matters with Qatar on Monday.
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.
During 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.
The dispute came to an end in 2021 with the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration, however Manama has yet to fully reconcile with Doha, with a notable absence of communications between both countries.
Bahrain’s civil aviation authority announced at the time that it would open its airspace to Qatar, but direct flights have yet to resume.
Embassies of both countries also remain shut.
Last year, Manama abolished a visa requirement for Qataris, allowing them to enter Bahrain with ID cards.
While the update claimed to be for “all” GCC nationals, it failed to make mention of a U-turn on restrictions specifically targeting Qataris.
Prior to the latest entry policy change, all citizens of the bloc except Qatar were exempt from applying for a visa, per the Bahraini government’s portal—last updated in January last year.
However, more recent 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”.
“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.
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.
Following the blockade, Qatar moved to establish its own airspace under the Doha Flight Information Region (FIR).
Signed by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) and GCC countries, the agreement linked all of the signatories’ FIRs.