Saudi crown prince urged to ease Qatar blockade ahead of UK visit

Saudi crown prince urged to ease Qatar blockade ahead of UK visit
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be urged to ease restrictions on free movement for Qatari civilians across borders of blockading countries.
2 min read
06 March, 2018
Saudi Arabia closed Qatar's only land border crossing in June [AFP]
The Saudi-led camp currently blockading Qatar by land, sea and air will be urged to ease restrictions on the free movements of Qataris across their borders, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) visits the UK on Wednesday.

Requests will also be made for the Saudi-led quartet to ease the closure of its airspace to Qatari planes.

This would be the first step towards a wider deal to end the blockade, according to The Guardian's diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour on Tuesday.

The report comes ahead of a visit by Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - a key architect of the isolation of Doha - to London to meet Prime Minister Theresa May, followed by another trip to the US. 

Wintour did not specify the source of his information, but he has reported widely on the ongoing crisis in the Gulf. 

Theresa May is expected to call the crown prince to consider an end to the blockade during their talks. 

UK-based human rights groups have said protests will be held in London this week against the state visit due to Riyadh's human rights record and the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

It is not clear whether the Saudis will accept this measure.

Riyadh has been repeatedly urged to end its blockade of Qatar by world leaders, but has so far shown extreme intransigence despite Doha's call for dialogue.

Read more: UN delegation to visit Qatar to report on Saudi-led blockade's impact

Qatar has been under a land, sea and air blockade by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt since June.

Saudi Arabia and its allies then issued Qatar with a list of demands, including shutting down media outlets Al Jazeera and London-based The New Arab, curbing relations with Iran and closing a Turkish military base in the emirate.

The quartet accuses Doha of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran - charges that Qatar vehemently denies, and says the blockade is a bid to turn it into a vassal state.

The blockade has caused extreme suffering to Qatari and Gulf civilians who have close family and business relations across their countries' borders, but now can no longer travel to and from Qatar except through Kuwait and Oman.