Qatar and Bahrain's decision to mend fences to ease travel between the two countries

Qatar and Bahrain's decision to mend fences to ease travel between the two countries

Qatar-Bahrain ties thaw to strengthen collective action on the foreign policy front.

Qatar and Bahrain's decision to mend fences will not only ease travel between the two countries but also strengthen the Gulf nations' collective action on the foreign policy front, said experts.

Bahrain Civil Aviation Affairs said the decision to resume flights between Bahrain and Qatar on May 25 "comes within the framework of the brotherly relations between the two brotherly countries and peoples" and "the common aspirations of the leadership and citizens of both countries", the Bahrain News Agency reported on Monday.

Umer Karim, an associate fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, told China Daily that the Qatar-Bahrain rapprochement has been "probably the most difficult among the Gulf confrontations" due to the unique history between their royal families and the emergence of Qatar as an independent emirate.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017, imposing sanctions and blockades, amid religious and geopolitical rows.

Qatar had been accused of backing terrorism, a charge it repeatedly denied. During a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2021, the grouping lifted the boycotts, gradually resuming links with Qatar. The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman.

"The Qatar-Bahrain normalization will further pave the way for Gulf monarchies to act collectively on the foreign policy front and will end the decadelong confrontation between Gulf's royal houses,"

said Karim.

The pace of rapprochement among rivals in the Middle East has accelerated recently following a China-brokered peace deal between regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The resumption of travel links comes a month after the Qatari-Bahraini Follow-up Committee decided to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries in a meeting at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the GCC, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 12.

Stimulating competition

Jehad Amin, chairman of the Association of Bahrain Tour and Travel Agents, welcomed the developments. He believes that once Qatar Airways starts flying into Bahrain again, it will

"stimulate competition to the benefit of the travelers, providing more options and better deals".

It would also mean the return of travel convenience for citizens of the two countries who have had to endure visa or route hurdles just to see their families.

"At one point, Bahrain citizens needed special permission to travel to Doha. Likewise, Qatari citizens required a visa or special permission to visit Bahrain. Approximately a year ago, these limitations were lifted, but travelers could only visit (by) transiting in Kuwait or Dubai. They could also drive either way through Saudi Arabia. That's around four hours drive,"

Amin told China Daily.

When Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup, flights between the two Arab nations remained suspended while citizens from Israel, which does not have diplomatic ties with Qatar, were allowed to fly in and watch the event.

Referring to Gulf Air's just-released airfares, Amin said:

"The rates are approximately $300 for an economy class return ticket to Doha and $600 for a business class ticket. Those rates are expected to drop once Qatar Airways starts flying to Bahrain."

Gokhan Ereli, Gulf Studies coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Turkiye, told China Daily that the resumption of flights between Doha and Manama

"can be read as a sign of goodwill provided by Doha to increase room for maneuver in Bahraini foreign policy".

"The decision to open flights again represents the completion of a missing point in the normalization processes in the Gulf.

"It also shows that Qatar wants to overcome the crisis period by building reciprocal confidence again in its bilateral relations, not directly but gradually, and provides room for the maneuver for Bahraini foreign policy, which is heavily under the regional influence of Saudi, Emirati and Israeli political circles."

News Source: China Daily

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