The Straits Times says...

Gulf deal soothes Middle East tensions

Qataris are cheering the restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt after the blockade imposed by the quartet against Doha in 2017, on Riyadh's urging, was lifted last week with an embrace in the desert between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. For the regional hegemon, tiny Qatar turned out to be the shrimp whose shell proved too hard to crack. Qatar Airways can now fly less roundabout routes, Al Jazeera will continue to broadcast from Doha and the Qataris will maintain engagement with Iran. The incoming Joe Biden administration in the United States has one less headache to handle.

Saudi Arabia's decision to drop the blockade underscores an awareness by Riyadh that Mr Biden in the Oval Office will prove a vastly different leader from his predecessor for the region. Mr Biden has no personal stake in the Saudi Crown Prince unlike Mr Donald Trump - whose son-in-law Jared Kushner's close personal relationship with the Prince also proved useful for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel gaining greater acceptance in the Middle East. Besides, Mr Biden knows too well that Qatar hosts the US' most important airbase in the region.

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