Qatari Emir Arrives Saudi Arabia, Warmly Welcomed by Saudi Crown Prince
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warmly greeted Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani as he arrived in Saudi Arabia for a historic GCC summit
Qatar’s leader arrived in Saudi Arabia Tuesday, greeted by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a tight embrace, ahead of a summit that could yield more breakthroughs in a regional crisis.
Saudi Arabia led a coalition of countries in the Gulf and beyond that cut ties and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, charging that it was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamist groups — allegations Doha has always denied.
Those countries, along with Oman and Kuwait which have mediated between the two sides, will meet in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, after Riyadh overnight re-opened its borders to Doha despite lingering enmity between the neighbours.
The warm welcome that Prince Mohammed extended to Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, with the pair chatting as they walked to a waiting limousine, will also fuel hopes for a wider deal.
Sheikh Tamim’s attendance at the summit, visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time since the crisis began, is seen as a key vote of confidence in the process and was only confirmed after the concessions were announced.
“Confidence building measures seem to start with Saudi and Qatar, but the rest will join even if later,” said Kuwait University assistant professor Bader al-Saif.
“Any step toward reconciliation is better than no step at all. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) requires a major reset and can offer much more than it has.”
Washington has intensified pressure for a resolution to what Doha calls a “blockade”, insisting Gulf unity is necessary to isolate US foe Iran as the curtain falls on Donald Trump’s presidency.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser who shuttled around the region to seek a deal, will attend the signing on Tuesday of the “breakthrough” agreement, a US official said.
“The Trump administration will claim this as another victory for sure,” said Royal United Services Institute analyst Tobias Borck, stressing that the two sides have not yet normalised relations.