Missing trust: Qataris give cautious welcome to GCC agreement

Qataris say it will take time to rebuild trust but are happy to see the back of Qatar-GCC dispute.

Doha, Qatar
Many Qataris received the latest developments with mixed feelings, saying they are relieved there is progress and the opening of the land border but remain concerned about the future [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

An agreement signed by Gulf Arab leaders aimed at resolving the Gulf crisis has been cautiously welcomed by Qatari nationals on Tuesday.

Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” agreement towards ending the diplomatic rift with Qatar at a summit in Saudi Arabia, the dialogue taking place amid a breakthrough in the dispute that started in June 2017.

Later on Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said the kingdom and its three Arab allies agreed to restore full ties with Doha following the agreement.

Many Qataris received the latest developments with mixed feelings, saying they are relieved there is progress and the opening of the land border but remain concerned about the future.

“I was happy to hear [about the reconciliation] but I worry because of the trust … the trust is not there any more,” Ajayan al-Hebabi, a Qatari entrepreneur, told Al Jazeera.

“I think it [the deal] will last, but maybe it would take time [for the trust],” al-Hebabi, 45, said.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade ties and imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar in June 2017.

The quartet accused Doha of, among other things, supporting “terrorist” groups and being too close to Iran, allegations Qatar has consistently denied.

Following numerous rounds of talks – brokered by Kuwait and the United States – Saudi Arabia, on Monday, announced the reopening of its borders with Qatar ahead of the summit.

Al-Hebabi said he was shocked when the blockade was imposed.

The first year was “especially” hard, he said, not just as a member of a tribe that spans across the Gulf region, but also as a business owner.

Al-Hebabi, who owns a consultancy firm and a textiles company, hopes that solving the dispute and the lifting of the blockade will help his businesses after years of trying to remain afloat.

“The impact was huge because it affected the flow of customers … especially those coming from other countries,” he said. “It caused delays … and cost us a lot of money to relocate our goods.”

Like al-Hebabi, 21-year-old Ali Sultan is “very happy” with the developments but feels doubtful the calm will last.

“I don’t think the reconciliation will last because Saudi Arabia is indecisive,” Sultan told Al Jazeera.

Like thousands of other Qataris, Sultan has been unable to perform the pilgrimage at Islam’s holiest site in Mecca but hopes he will be able to do so next year.

‘Adapt for our family’

Apart from disrupting travel, transport links and businesses, the blockade also tore apart families whose members held different passports.

By mid-September last year, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee had received 3,346 complaints, 620 of which were from families affected by the blockade.

Elham Ahmadani said she suffered emotionally when she could no longer see her sisters and brothers who are in Bahrain.

Though she perceives the reconciliation deal as a “great” step, Ahmadani believes the dynamic between the various populations of the Gulf countries will “not be like before”.

Abu Samra border crossing to Saudi Arabia in Qatar opened on Monday evening [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

“It will definitely take time, but eventually, the thing will be normal again,” she told Al Jazeera.

For sisters Mona and Lobna Mohammed, the latest deal does not necessarily promise a lasting solution.

Both were barred from seeing family members in Bahrain due to the blockade.

“It may last for a period of time, but then history will repeat itself,” Mona, 43, told Al Jazeera, referring to Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch the blockade with the other countries.

While both believe it will take a while for trust to re-emerge between the populations, they say they will “not forget” what they went through.

“It will be strange for a while but we will adapt for our family,” Lobna said.

Source: Al Jazeera