GCC News Roundup: Gulf leaders sign declaration in move to end Qatar rift, UAE signs deal to purchase F-35 jets from US (January 1-31)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) welcomes Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani upon his arrival in the city of alUla ahead of the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

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Gulf leaders sign declaration in move to end Qatar rift: Gulf Arab leaders signed a declaration on January 5 to ease a rift with Qatar, following Saudi Arabia’s decision to end a 3 1/2-year embargo of the tiny energy-rich country that deeply divided regional U.S. security allies and frayed social ties across the Arabian Peninsula.

On the eve of the Gulf Arab leaders’ summit in the ancient desert city of Al-Ula, the Saudis announced they would open the kingdom’s airspace and borders to Qatar, the first major step toward ending the diplomatic crisis that began in 2017, when the Trump administration was starting to raise pressure on Iran.

UAE signs deal to purchase F-35 jets, drones from US: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) confirmed that it signed agreements with the United States on former President Donald Trump’s last full day in office to purchase up to 50 F-35 jets, 18 armed drones, and other defense equipment in a deal worth $23 billion.

The Emirati embassy in Washington said in a statement on its website that the letters of agreement had been finalized on January 19 confirming terms of purchase, including costs, technical specifications, and anticipated delivery schedules.

Flights restart between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE: A Qatar Airways jetliner landed in Saudi Arabia on January 11, completing the first direct flight from Doha to Riyadh since the kingdom’s boycott of the tiny, energy-rich state in 2017.

The first direct flights between Qatar and two of the other blockading nations—Egypt and the UAE—took to the skies on January 18.

Oman’s sultan shakes up constitution, appoints first crown prince: Oman’s sultan announced a shake-up of the Gulf country’s constitution on January 11 with changes that include the appointment of a crown prince for the first time and steps to boost government transparency, the state-run news agency reported.

The constitutional amendments bring iconoclast Oman into closer conformity with other Gulf sheikhdoms and dispel fears of any destabilizing succession crisis in the future.

Israel opens embassy in UAE: Israel on January 24 said it has opened its embassy in the UAE, following through on last year’s U.S.-brokered agreement to establish full diplomatic ties with the Gulf country.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the embassy would be in a temporary office while a permanent location is prepared. Eitan Na’eh, a veteran Israeli diplomat, will serve as the head of mission.

Kuwait’s emir reappoints PM after cabinet resignation: Kuwait’s emir reappointed Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah as prime minister on January 24 after the cabinet resigned last week in a standoff with parliament over its vote to question the premier on issues including his choice of ministers.

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, facing his first big political challenge since taking power in September, tasked Sheikh Sabah with nominating a new cabinet for approval, state news agency KUNA said.

Saudi Arabia to receive 3 million AstraZeneca shots from India: The Serum Institute of India (SII) will supply Saudi Arabia with 3 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses priced at $5.25 each on behalf of the British drugmaker, its chief executive told Reuters on January 25.

The doses were expected to be shipped to Saudi Arabia in a week to 10 days.

Italy halts sale of missiles to Saudi Arabia, UAE: Italy has halted the sale of thousands of missiles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on January 29, citing Rome’s commitment to restoring peace in war-ravaged Yemen and protecting human rights.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are part of an Arab coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen since 2015 in a conflict seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.