Qatar Airways to fly over Saudi since Gulf row

A scheduled Qatar Airways service will fly over Saudi Arabia Thursday for the first time since the Gulf crisis, which saw the kingdom close its airspace to Doha, the airline said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017 slapped a blockade on Qatar that included closing airspace to the country over claims it backed Islamist groups and was too close to Iran.

The quartet agreed to lift the restrictions at a Gulf Co-operation Council summit on Tuesday in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula, after energetic diplomacy by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.

“This evening #QatarAirways began to reroute some flights through Saudi airspace with the first scheduled flight expected to be QR 1365, Doha to Johannesburg at 20:45pm (1745 GMT) this evening, 7 January,” the airline wrote on Twitter.

On January 4, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah announced on state TV that a deal had been agreed to “open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar, starting from this evening”.

Kuwait was a key mediator in the diplomatic crisis.

The New York Times had reported that Qatar has been paying in excess of $100 million annually to use Iran’s airspace to bypass Saudi. (AFP)