Saudi Plots

Reuters: Saudi Arabia leads pack on Gulf detente with eye on US ties

Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia leads a rapprochement in the Gulf and has eyes on US President-elect Joe Biden relations.

The agency quoted sources saying that Saudi Arabia would move faster than its allies to reconcile with Qatar.

It explained that Riyadh aims to “impress” the Biden administration by ending what the West considers a dispute that only benefits Iran, the “common enemy.”

Less friction

Saudi Arabia seeks to reduce this rapprochement from potential points of friction with the next US administration.

Reuters reported that the Biden administration would undoubtedly be less tolerant than President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration, “who has consistently protected the kingdom from criticism for its human rights record.”

This move intends to paint the Kingdom’s image as a force for stability in a volatile region.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chaired a summit on Tuesday announcing an end to the bitter conflict that has seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt participate in Qatar’s blockade since mid-2017.

During the summit, the Kingdom said that the four countries agreed to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Doha.

And under an American-brokered agreement.

But the sources said the other three countries have come under pressure to sign a public declaration.

Consequently, these countries will likely move at a slower pace as significant differences with Doha persist.

“Saudi Arabia is far ahead of others who may slow down,” one of the sources said. “The declaration was kept loose to ensure that all parties sign it.”

The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have yet to announce specific measures to restore relations.

American pressure

The Trump administration has been pressing for more than a year to find a solution, especially concerning the opening of airspace with Qatar, to strengthen Iran’s response.

But the task of reaching such an agreement proved to be not easy, despite US and Kuwaiti mediation efforts.

The source said that a senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, and other officials made a fresh attempt with bin Salman’s support.

This gave Trump another diplomatic victory after the normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries.

“We wanted to get that done before his term ends,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters.

“I expect the same level of commitment that Saudi Arabia shows,” the official said of the other countries that participated in the boycott.

Score points

The sources said that Saudi Arabia is currently the only country taking actual steps to reopen airspace and borders with Qatar and restore diplomatic relations.

The source added that for Riyadh’s allies it would be challenging to escape Tuesday’s announcement.

“But it may also be difficult to move forward quickly,” he added, noting that some consider the agreement at the summit “a starting point, not the end line.”

Biden has previously said he will take a stricter line in Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Diplomats in the region and analysts said that Riyadh’s effort for Gulf rapprochement aims mainly to position it as an important partner for the United States at a time of regional tension with Iran.

An internal memo in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that for Saudi Arabia, the summit on Tuesday provided an opportunity to project a “conciliatory image” to Washington while Qatar made the largest gains.

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