Qatar and Bahrain agree to resume flights
Bahrain and Qatar have agreed to resume flights starting 25 May, the Bahrain News Agency reported on Monday, marking the latest sign of a diplomatic thaw between the Gulf states amid a wider push to de-escalate tensions in the region.
The two countries re-established relations in April 2023 in a meeting held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Manama took part in a nearly four-year Gulf blockade of Qatar that stemmed from acrimony over Doha's ties to Iran, its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamist movements that Saudi Arabia and its allies labelled “terrorists”. Qatar denied the allegations.
The Gulf states have since moved to patch up ties in a tide of regional rapprochement. While Saudi Arabia moved quicker to reestablish relations with Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain have been slower.
Bahrain, a country of just 1.5 million, has been particularly sensitive to Qatar's ties with Iran. The country's Sunni ruling family governs a majority Shia population. It was the only Gulf Arab state to experience major unrest during the 2011 Arab Spring protest movement, with citizens demanding greater political freedoms and equal rights regardless of religious identity.
Manama's rulers quashed the uprising with the help of Saudi Arabia, and since then the Bahraini government has cracked down on political opposition.
Gulf states have looked to move past tensions as they focus on shoring up their domestic economies, riding a wave of high oil and gas prices that have allowed them to plow funds into megaprojects.
The Qatar-hosted World Cup last year gave Middle Eastern leaders a high-profile format to express the shift in their approach to the region for the entire world to see.
During the tournament, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was seen sporting a scarf in the colours of the Qatari flag. Qatar's emir reciprocated by draping a Saudi flag around his shoulders.
More recently, Saudi Arabia has sought to position itself as a mediator in regional conflicts such as in Sudan, where it has made a series of failed attempts with US backing to negotiate a truce.