DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates appears to have unblocked a number of Qatari news websites after more than seven years of blocking access. The move comes in the wake of recent high-level meetings between the two countries, and improvement in relations.
Qatari-owned news websites Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera English, The New Arab and the state-run Qatar News Agency are among the platforms now open to UAE residents that were originally restricted in early 2016 as tensions rose between the two nations. Al-Monitor confirmed accessibility to these websites from the UAE on Tuesday.
Qatari-owned news website Doha News (dohanews.co) remains blocked, while Middle East Eye — seen as close to Qatar — continues to be restricted.
Relations between the two countries have gradually warmed since the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration in Saudi Arabia in 2021, which was brokered by the United States and Kuwait.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met last week with UAE National Security Advisor Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Deputy Prime Minister Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Doha.
Before that, UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held talks in Qatar in December. During the first visit of its kind, the UAE president lauded Doha’s execution of the 2022 World Cup, hosted by an Arab nation for the first time, as a success for all Arabs.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, told Al-Monitor last week that even though few major announcements or deals emerged from the bilateral talks, the relations between Abu Dhabi and Doha are progressing.
“The fact that the meetings gradually became more frequent, more high-level, culminating now in positive state meetings — I think this is an indication that a lot of the issues that were being worked on behind the scenes have now progressed to the level where the relationship seems to be fully back on track,” explained Ulrichsen.
The Gulf dispute began in June 2017 with the halt of diplomatic ties and a blockade on Qatar by Egypt and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
Qatar was accused of supporting extremism because of its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood — which the four blockading countries had branded a terrorist organization — and for maintaining economic ties with Iran, with which Qatar shares its largest natural gas field, said the nonprofit public policy organization The Brookings Institution in Washington.
The three-and-a-half-year blockade of almost all trade, work and travel by air, land and sea ended in January 2021. In October of the same year, Qatar hosted a pavilion in the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, according to the UAE’s government news agency WAM.
Update: Since Al-Monitor published the news and as of March 8th, more Qatar-linked websites have become accessible in the UAE.
This includes Doha News (dohanews.co) and Qatar-affiliated Middle East Eye. Both have been unblocked along with a growing number of Qatar-based media platforms.
Khalifa Al Haroon, the founder of ILoveQatar.net (ILQ), a cultural community site which strives to bridge barriers between expatriates and locals in Qatar, stated that his platform’s website has also been unblocked in the UAE.
This story has been updated on March 10 with new developments on the topic.