Three-and-a-half-years into the crisis that struck the heart of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the 41st Gulf Summit, held on January 5, 2021, in the Saudi city of al-Ula, brought the blockade of Qatar to an end. The summits final communiqué stated that the GCC member states will “stand together as one to confront any threat to the security of the block” and prevent any “violation of sovereignty of any member state.”1 According to the Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan, “points of disagreement with Qatar have been solved.”2 The Saudi minister declined to give more details on the compromises the two sides may have agreed on and the timeframe for their implementation. Lack of enthusiasm in the state-owned media on both sides of the fence suggests, however, that the agreement will merely return the relationship between the parties to the pre-June 5, 2017 position. So far, the two sides blame COVID-19 for ‘social distancing.’ Trade has not been fully resumed and cross-borders movement of goods and peoples remain low. It is assumed that cold peace is likely to prevail until the two sides re-establish mutual trust, which was badly damaged, especially at the level of the heads of states.
The election of the U.S. President Donald Trump played a key role in reigniting the Gulf crisis. The blockading quartet (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt) took advantage of the election of a more sympathetic U.S. president to resume the 2013-2014 diplomatic crisis with Qatar, trying to get Doha to agree to their demands. However, divisions within the Trump Administration hindered the quartet efforts to get a much-weakened Qatar to comply. The Defense and State Departments helped balance out the president’s more negative attitude towards Qatar in order to prevent any negative fallout of the U.S. interests in the region