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Qatar, Saudi Arabia withdraw WTO legal disputes amid regional reconciliation

The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are seen in Geneva on April 12, 2018 [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]
The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are seen in Geneva on April 12, 2018 [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have halted a legal dispute at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over a case of content piracy, in the latest step to reinforce their reconciliation.

The dispute was over the alleged piracy of content produced by the Qatari-owned broadcaster, beIN – the sports and entertainment channel which owns broadcasting rights for popular world sporting events such as the Premier League and FIFA – that was committed by beoutQ, the commercial-scale channel that carried the pirated broadcasts.

After beIN was blocked in Saudi Arabia in 2017 as part of the Kingdom and its allies' blockade on and boycott of Qatar, Doha filed its complaint to the WTO in 2018, accusing Riyadh of refusing to take effective action against beoutQ's alleged piracy.

That same year, Qatar also separately launched a $1 billion investment arbitration against Saudi Arabia over the case.

READ: Gulf reconciliation is a return to reason and pragmatism

In 2020, the WTO's panel then ruled that Saudi Arabia had breached international rules on intellectual property rights by failing to prosecute beoutQ within its territory. That led to Riyadh appealing against that decision and permanently banning beIN's licence in the Kingdom.

Since then, relations between the two Gulf states have significantly improved, with an agreement having been signed by the countries' leaders at a summit in Saudi Arabia's historic Al-Ula site in January 2021. As part of that deal and the lifting of the blockade on Qatar, Doha agreed to terminate all of the legal battles related to that dispute, leading to Riyadh lifting its ban on beIN in October.

According to notices published by the WTO on Friday, it was stated that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar were "mutually" suspending their remaining requests before its dispute resolution body. While Riyadh withdrew its appeal of the WTO's findings, "Qatar agreed to the proposed suspension of the appellate proceedings pursuant to the terms of Al-Ula Declaration."

READ: Israel is keeping its eye on Gulf reconciliation efforts

International OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsQatarSaudi Arabia
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