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The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar signed a new agreement Tuesday, signaling a possible end to longstanding tensions between the two countries since the summer of 2017.
The move may also mark a shift for President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy agenda as both countries are U.S. allies in the Gulf region and the U.S. has a large military base located in Qatar.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani signed the agreement in al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. They greeted each other at the airport with a long hug.
This moment comes over three years since Saudi Arabia first ended diplomatic relations, trade ties and travel with Qatar, cutting off the country’s access to Saudi airspace, ground entrances and seaports.
That summer, Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain issued 13 demands of Qatar, including that Qatar dismantle its news media agency, Al Jazeera, and scale back its diplomatic relationship with Iran. The countries also accused Qatar of backing terrorist organizations and urged it to end its links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The new agreement reverses Saudi bans on Qatari people and business entering the country. In response, Qatar has ended its international lawsuits filed against Saudi Arabia for shutting off its airspace and borders, as reported by The New York Times.
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, and White House adviser, was also present at the signing. The Trump administration originally supported Saudi Arabia in its actions against Qatar but then began attempting to foster an agreement shortly after.
International relations experts see this development as a sign that Saudi Arabia is making way for Biden, who is expected to take stronger stances with Saudi Arabia than the Trump administration did.
“I think for Saudi Arabia, clearly, this is part and parcel of turning the page,” Firas Maksad, a professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, told NPR’s Jackie Northam.
“They are setting the table, so to speak, for better relations with the incoming Biden administration,” Maksad added.
NPR’s Jackie Northam contributed to this report.