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The New Arab Staff

Bahrain becomes last of GCC blockading countries to open airspace to Qatar

Qatar flights have been banned from entering Saudi, Bahraini, Emirati and Egyptian airspace since 2017[Getty]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2021

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Bahrain on Monday became the last of the former Gulf blockading countries to lift its embargo on Qatar.
Bahrain on Monday opened its airspace to Qatari aircraft, becoming the last Gulf country ina Saudi-UAE led quarter to officially lift its blockade on Doha.

Bahrain's Civil Aviation Authority announced the move on Sunday, days after the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) declared the end of the dispute with the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh and its allies - the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt - in June 2017 slapped a blockade on Qatar that included closing airspace to the country over claims it backed Islamist groups and was too close to Iran. Qatar always denied the charges.

The Al-Ula Declaration, signed at the annual GCC Summit in the Saudi kingdom, marked the end of the three-year dispute.

Until now, Bahrain has taken a more reserved approach to the end of the crisis.

Tensions between Doha and Manama have been particularly strained with Qatar filing complaints to the UN over Bahrain's violation of Qatari airspace with military aircrafts at least four times in December.

Qatar has also accused Bahrain of breaching its territorial waters in recent weeks.

Also on Monday, air travel between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is set to resume, according to the countries' airlines, a major landmark as Doha's former rivals restore ties under a landmark agreement.

Read also: Qatar travellers crossing into Saudi Arabia welcomed with roses after border reopens

The first commercial flight between Qatar and Saudi in three and a half years, a Qatar Airways service to Riyadh, will take off from Doha at 10:45am GMT and touch down at 12:10pm GMT, according to the airline's timetable.

Saudi Airlines will fly from Riyadh to Doha, departing the kingdom at 1:40pm GMT according to its online schedule, with services from Jeddah expected to start at a later date.

On Saturday,  local media reported travellers from Qatar crossing into Saudi Arabia by land were greeted with roses.

Drivers arrived at the Salwa border crossing in Saudi Arabia, 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, from the Qatari land crossing at Abu Samrah for the second day following its re-opening, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Since the re-opening of the border, 167 Qatari cars had entered Saudi Arabia, while 35 Qatari vehicles had crossed back into Qatar, said Ali Lablabi, general manager of Salwa's customs department.

The UAE also opened its borders with Qatar on Saturday just days after UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Gulf states will restore travel, trade and transport links with Doha within a week.

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