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Qatar blockade ends: UAE reopens airspace and land borders

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash says it will take time re-establish full diplomatic relations with Qatar
Gulf states blockaded Qatar for allegedly supporting terrorism and Iran, charges Qatar denies (Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates reopened its land borders and airspace to Qatar on Saturday, marking the beginning of the end of a three-year dispute with Doha. 

The move came after an announcement by Saudi Arabia at a summit on Tuesday that it was lifting the blockade on its neighbour. Riyadh said it would be restoring all ties with Doha that had been severed in mid-2017.

A UAE official told a virtual news conference on Thursday that Arab states boycotting Qatar could resume travel and trade links with Doha within a week of the US-backed agreement, but restoring diplomatic ties would require more time as parties worked to rebuild trust.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said measures would include "practical measures of airlines, shipping and trade".

Flights resume

Qatar Airways announced via Twitter on Saturday that it would resume flights to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday, to Jeddah on 14 January and to Dammam on 16 January.

"We also look forward to resuming a strong relationship with our trade and cargo partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the major airports in the country," the airline added.

Saudi Airlines (Saudia) tweeted that it too would resume flights from Riyadh and Jeddah to Doha from Monday.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed the embargo on Qatar over allegations that it supported "terrorism" and closer relations with Iran. Doha has denied the charges and says the boycott was aimed at curtailing its independence.

Restored air links to the UAE's regional aviation hub will be important for Qatar's hosting of the 2022 Football World Cup.