Arabian Gulf Cup offers hope of diplomatic breakthrough
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On 8th December, Sayed Mohammed Jaffer, the captain of the Bahrain national football team, lifted aloft the Arabian Gulf Cup at Abdullah bin Khalifa stadium in Doha. The victory of his tiny island nation didn’t simply signal an unexpected triumph on the football field. It also represented a glimmer of hope for a diplomatic breakthrough. Less than a month earlier, Bahrain hadn’t even been expected to participate in the tournament — the biannual highpoint on the region’s football calendar. The kingdom, along with Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had announced that it would refuse to take part in the contest. The decision was the latest snub of Doha in a dispute that has run since June 2017, when Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain (along with Egypt) severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, closing their land border and airspace to Qatar. The blockading countries accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge that Doha repeatedly denied. They set out a list of demands that Doha refused to meet.