Gulf optimism but also caution after reconciliation summit

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Many Gulf Arabs hope that things will return to how they were before the crisis of June 2017 allowing for the reunification of families that have been most affected by the political row.

A shop owner arranges newspapers on a newsstand in the Qatari capital Doha showing headlines about the outcome of the GCC summit held in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula. (AFP)

Doha – Many in the populations of the Arab Gulf countries have wavered between optimism  and anxiety about the future following the reconciliation announced at the end of the Al-Ula summit held in Saudi Arabia, Tuesday.

Many Gulf Arabs hope that things will return to how they were before the crisis of June 2017 allowing for the reunification of families that have been most affected by the political row.

If the political reconciliation was accomplished by a political decision within a limited period of time, social reconciliation will require more time but many see it happening down the road.

The decision to open the borders between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has revived hopes of families being reunited but many others will wait until a broader decision is taken to include the rest of the Gulf states.

“All the people I talk to are happy because they can see their families and they will be able to travel,” said Fahd, who works in the oil and gas industry.

The reconciliation raised hopes of a new era, although some are still not confident, so they deal with the development with caution.

A large number of Qataris had been forced to leave their families in Bahrain and the UAE and go back to Doha after relations were severed. This also fractured many mixed families.

A June 2017 file photo shows a view from the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia. (AFP)

According to figures published by the Qatari authorities, more than 3,600 registered marriages between Qataris and Emiratis have been affected by the measures taken by the boycotting countries after their borders and airspace were closed to Qataris.

Qatari Rashid, who was born to an Emirati mother, says that in the early days after the severing of relations, “We were so angry with each other that we stopped talking to one another for a while,” saying that it was often about “love of the homeland.”

“The same thing happened with my relatives in Saudi Arabia,” Rashid added.

“Many marriages failed due to restrictions imposed,” says a former Qatar Airways employee who was in Doha at the start of the crisis.

He explains that “there are many people who lost their husbands or wives.” Some families were able to meet outside the countries concerned by the crisis.

“After the agreement and the reopening of the borders, there is no fear and things are fine now, especially with Saudi Arabia, and we do not need anything else,” said Abdul Rahman Rashid Al-Kuwari, a university student studying business administration. We will go to visit the holy places, especially during the Hajj, which a must for us. ”

The crisis has also had an economic impact in the entire region, especially with the drop in oil prices and the effects of the coronavirus.

During the years of crisis, Saudis were unable to visit Doha for the weekend as they used to do.

The real test next month will be the number of fans who will travel from boycotting countries to Doha to watch the Clubs’ World Cup games that will be held in Doha, if the coronavirus-related restrictions  do not prevent them from doing so.

In the past, Saudi football fans used to come to Qatar in droves. “This,” said Fahd, “will help us avoid seeing empty stadiums” in the 2022 World Cup, scheduled to be held in Qatar.

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