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Saudi Arabia, Qatar ‘truce’ should include media

January 6, 2021

By Chris Forrester

A carefully-orchestrated – and highly public – rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and four other gulf states and Qatar sees the end result as a reopening of trade, contacts and communications.

The various announcements do not specifically mention Qatar’s Al Jazeera news channel, or the long-running dispute with Qatar-based beIN Sports. But the agreements, showcased at this week’s meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which is made up of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt and Qatar, should mean a rapprochement in the various media disputes.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met at the steps of the Qatar aircraft that brought the delegation to the GCC meeting. The deal to reopen borders will be signed in the presence of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, who helped broker it.

Al Jazeera’s CEO Jamal Elshayyal, said that it was evident that the Gulf leaders, at least Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, spared no effort to show that the summit was a new page in GCC relations. “This is essentially an end to a feud that destabilised the region for three and a half years and beginning of the new era,” he said from Doha.

“Not only this is seen a new chapter in Gulf relations, it is also seen as a new chapter in Saudi Arabia,” Elshayyal added.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt placed a transport, trade and communications ban on Qatar in 2017, and accusing Qatar of ties with Iran – the arch-enemy of Saudi Arabia. The rift between the UAE’s Abu Dhabi and Qatar’s capital Doha has been deepest, with the UAE and Qatar at sharp ideological odds.

The re-establishing of an Egypt relationship is important to Al Jazeera which has suffered the jailing of journalists in Egypt and the closing of its Cairo news bureau. Egypt.

beIN Sport has been badly hit by the dispute having been banned for more than three years. It has also suffered from massive State-backed piracy in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

It is understood that there are three key cases that focus on the dispute:

1. beIN SPORTS – International investment arbitration (in London) for $1 billion damages re. beoutQ piracy of beIN Sports – It is understood that the arbitration will be held in London and beIN has every prospect of winning. By all accounts, it is the surest case of all Qatar-related cases, and it is also the most-high profile given the issue derailed Saudi’s attempted takeover of Newcastle Utd.

2. Qatar Airways – International Court of Justice (ICJ) re. Qatar Airways / international airspace – In July 2020, the ICJ ruled in Qatar’s favour in an international airspace dispute. A 16-judge panel rejected an appeal by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE of a June 2018 decision by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to dismiss the countries’ challenge to its jurisdiction to rule in the aviation dispute.

3. Citizens – International Court of Justice (ICJ) case re. citizen’s rights – In July 2018, the ICJ ruled in favour of Qatari citizens’ rights and against the UAE after the Qatar government requested emergency measures from the court to protect its people. The ICJ ordered the UAE to reunite Qatari families affected by its illegal policies, which broke the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Other related cases continue.

It remains to be seen whether these cases are dropped as part of the bigger solution.

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