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Qatar and Bahrain to resume direct flights on 25 May after six year suspension

The Gulf nations in April declared the reestablishment of ties, ending a dispute that dated back to 2017.

Flights between Bahrain and Qatar are set to resume on 25 May 2023 after being suspended in 2017, as reported by Bahrain’s state news agency.

Bahrain’s Civil Aviation Affairs announced the move on Monday, indicating a clear diplomatic rapprochement between the Gulf countries as part of a larger initiative to de-escalate tensions in the region.

Flights between the two will resume “within the framework of the brotherly relations between the two brotherly countries and peoples, and in a manner that achieves the common aspirations of the leaderships and citizens of both countries,” the state agency reported.

The short yet in-demand route will be serviced by flights from both Qatar Airways and Gulf Air, aviation analysts said.

“Doha-Bahrain previously had 10 flights per day (before the 2017 blockade). With ‘Al Ula agreement’ eventually resolving the diplomatic Gulf crisis back in Jan 2021, direct flights between Qatar and Bahrain really has been the final, much-awaited piece of the puzzle,” Alex Macheras wrote.

According to Macheras the decision is ‘good news’ families with mixed Qatari and Bahraini backgrounds, who have spent the past six years traveling between other Gulf states to reach family members which became especially challenging during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Qatar-Bahrain gradual warming of relations

In April 2023, the two nations met in Riyadh where they officially re-established diplomatic ties for the first time since the 2017 Gulf Cooperation Council crisis.

At the time of the region’s worst rift, Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt in imposing an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar. The quartet severed ties with the Gulf state, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism at the time.

Qatar repeatedly rejected the claims as baseless.

While the crisis came to a halt in 2021 under the Al Ula Declaration, Qatar and Bahrain’s ties were the last to pick up pace, with the latter continuing to carry out a misinformation campaign against Doha.

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Dr Majed Al Ansari confirmed last month that talks were underway to reopen both embassies.

Since the beginning of 2023, the tense relations between Doha and Manama have appeared to calm.

In January, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa met in Abu Dhabi, marking the second such meeting since the dispute erupted.

Qatar and Bahrain’s foreign ministers met in February for the first time since the GCC crisis to “end the pending special files between them”.

The restoration of ties takes place in the midst of numerous other attempts to settle regional sticking points, including the reinstatement of Syria in the Arab League and the revival of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Analysts say among the issues were previous territorial disputes between both countries.

Doha and Manama were on the verge of war in 1986 over disputed territories, including the Zubura, Janan Islands and Fasht Al-Dibal.

Conflicts over the areas began as early as 1937, when an intervention by British colonial powers settled a dispute by demarcating the borders. At the time, the territories were said to be under “Britain’s protection”.

The two sides were then advised to raise the feud at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1990. The court requested evidence from Qatar and Bahrain to rule on ownership of the territories.

The case lasted for a decade and ended in 2001, when the court granted Qatar sovereignty over Zubara and Jinan Islands, Haddad Janan and Fasht Al Dibal. Bahrain was given sovereignty over the Hawar islands and Qit’at Jarada.