Bahrain and Saudi Arabia play regional football final in Qatar amid thaw in relations

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia face off in the Arabian Gulf Cup football final today in Doha. The event has been

saudi bahrain gulf cup

Photo: Showkat Shafi

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia face off in the Arabian Gulf Cup football final today in Doha. The event has been hosted by Qatar over the past month.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are still blockading Qatar over its alleged support of Iran and anti-Saudi terrorist groups. Doha denies the accusations. However, the blockading countries decided to enter the regional football tournament at the last minute. Furthermore, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has been invited to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council regional meeting hosted in Riyadh on December 10.

Prospects of a diplomatic breakthrough are promising, but it will depend on whether the emir accepts the invitation—he has been represented by senior officials at this meeting for the past two years. For this to happen, Saudi Arabia will likely have to lift its ban on Qatari flights entering its airspace. The ban has forced Qatari flights to take longer routes over Iran, significantly increasing financial costs. However, Riyadh flew its football team directly to Doha for the tournament, which suggests the kingdom is willing to lift the flight restrictions.

The emir’s attendance would be a symbolic confidence-building step for further substantive talks over more difficult issues, including Qatar’s relationship with Iran and its support of regional groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

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