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US Welcomes Bahrain, Qatar Deal to Restore Relations

The State Department applauded the “breakthrough” agreement reached between the two US partners in the Middle East.

April 13, 2023

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday welcomed the deal reached between Qatar and Bahrain to resume diplomatic ties, two years after the Saudi-led bloc ended its embargo on Doha. 

“This breakthrough represents a crucial step in our collective efforts to forge a more integrated, stable, peaceful and prosperous region,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement. 

Both countries are close US partners in the Middle East, with Bahrain hosting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and Qatar home to the largest US air base in the region. 

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan described the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as “an important step toward establishing a more stable and prosperous Middle East region.” 

“The United States has been working since the start of the Biden administration to encourage regional integration, de-escalation and rapprochement between US partners,” Sullivan said. 

In January 2021, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt lifted their 3½-year embargo on Qatar, but Manama held off on restoring relations with Doha. 

In a sign of improved ties, Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani spoke by phone this January. The two countries finalized their decision to normalize relations late Wednesday during the second meeting of the Bahraini-Qatari Follow-up Committee at the headquarters of the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh.

The Saudi-led quartet began its boycott of gas-rich Qatar in 2017, accusing it of funding terrorism and backing its regional rival Iran. Doha denies backing terrorist groups but acknowledges support for Islamist movements including Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. 

Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a Shiite-majority, had concerns over Qatar’s relationship with Iran, the region’s Shiite heavyweight. The Bahrain-Qatar deal comes a month after Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic ties after seven years. 

Source: Al-Monitor