Means of ending outstanding issues were discussed by Qatar and Bahrain’s foreign ministers during a meeting on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, the first such event between the two since the 2017 Gulf Cooperation Crisis.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif Al Zayani at the headquarters of the GCC’s Secretariat General, according to Doha’s foreign ministry.
In accordance with the Al Ula statement, the discussion during the meeting focused on creating the framework and processes for negotiations at the level of bilateral committees “in order to end the pending special files between them,” the foreign ministry said.
Both sides stressed the need for joint efforts to boost relations, the statement added.
The development is the latest development between the two GCC states following years of deadlock despite the end of the 2017 GCC crisis.
At the time, Bahrain along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt placed an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar over claims that it supports terrorism. Doha dismissed those claims as baseless.
However, while Doha’s ties improved with the other three nations, relations with Bahrain faced a stalemate. Changes in Manama’s approach emerged last week when Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa expressed the importance of resolving pending matters with Qatar.
Also last week, Manama’s transportation minister Mohammed Al Kaabi said direct flights between Qatar and Bahrain are expected to resume “soon” with both countries engaging in talks over the matter.
Al Kaabi’s remarks were made 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.
Deemed as major development, the plan has finally surfaced afters years of notable absence of communications between both countries, despite signing the Al Ula Declaration on 5 January 2021.
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.
Analysts say the developments appear to show steps towards a thaw in relations between Doha and Manama.
“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 last week.
However, there now appears to be a lightbulb moment on the Bahraini end, Cafiero suggested.
“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.