AFP/Reuters/Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia
*GCC leaders ‘seek to open a new page’ at landmark summit at Al-Ula
*Declaration affirms ‘Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability’
Saudi Arabia and its allies have restored full relations with Qatar, Riyadh said on Tuesday after a landmark GCC summit, ending a damaging rift that erupted in 2017.
Saudi said that the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt were joining it in re-establishing ties with Qatar.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was greeted with a warm embrace on arrival in the kingdom by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
“What happened today is the turning of the page on all points of difference and a full return of diplomatic relations,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said following the summit in the desert city of Al-Ula.
Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, tweeted that leaders “closed the page on disagreement and seek to open a new page” of solidarity.
Leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) signed two documents on Tuesday, the Al-Ula Declaration and a final communique, described by Prince Mohamed as affirming “our Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability”.
He called for unity to confront challenges facing the region.
Prince Mohamed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, extended an enthusiastic welcome to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, after he landed in the kingdom for the first time since the crisis began.
Later, Saudi state media tweeted a photo of Crown Prince Mohamed behind the wheel of a sports utility vehicle, taking His Highness the Amir on a tour of the area.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser who shuttled around the region to seek a deal, attended the signing in Al-Ula.
“The Trump administration will claim this as another victory for sure,” said Royal United Services Institute analyst Tobias Borck.
Drivers south of Doha on the usually calm Salwa highway towards the Saudi border at Abu Samra sounded their horns and waved their arms from their car windows, an AFP correspondent reported.
“We will see all Saudis here, also all Qataris will visit Saudi Arabia, and we will be friends as we were before and better,” said Doha-based Hisham al-Hashmi, a Qatari with an Emirati mother.
Meanwhile a Qatari business delegation flew from Saudi to Cairo to open a luxury hotel in the Egyptian capital.
Prime Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai, said the summit had brought unity to the region.
“The changes and challenges surrounding us require strength, cohesion and real Gulf co-operation,” he tweeted.