Qatar’s emir in ‘short’ visit to Saudi Arabia

Relations between Doha and Riyadh have been uneasy

Gulf News

Dubai: Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani left for the Saudi city of Jeddah where to have have talks with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported on Monday evening.

The “short” visit was described as brotherly by the official news agency.

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Shaikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani and an official delegation were accompanying Shaikh Tamim on the visit, QNA said, but added no other details. The previously unannounced visit is Shaikh Tamim’s second in three months.

Early in August, Shaikh Tamim received Saudi Arabia’s National Guard Minister Prince Mitab Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, the son of the king, in the Qatari capital Doha.

The official news agencies of both countries said that the talks covered bilateral relations and ways to bolster them.

No other details were provided by either country about other issues that might have been discussed at the meeting that concluded with a lunch banquet hosted by the Emir in honour of his guest.

The two countries are seen as competing for influence in regional affairs. Over the weekend, the Syrian National Coalition failed to failed to agree on a prime minister during a summit in Turkey. A member of the SNC said the biggest dispute at the Istanbul meeting centred around a split between the favoured candidates of vital funders Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The official said that out of 13 hopefuls the two frontrunners were former agriculture minister Walid Al Zohbi - seen as being close to Riyadh - and Ahmad Tohme, the provisional head of the coalition who is reportedly backed by Doha.

“Qatar made clear that its financial support to the coalition would end if Tohme was not re-elected,” another participant said.

Tohme, who is close to Syria’s influential Muslim Brotherhood, headed the coalition for 10 months before being relieved of his duties at the bloc’s previous general assembly.

Relations between Riyadh and Doha have been tense since the two capitals differed sharply over policies with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and beyond.

On March 5, Manama, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, in an unprecedented move since the establishment of the GCC in 1981, pulled out their ambassadors from Doha to protests against Qatar’s non-compliance with agreements approved by the GCC states.

Even though Doha did not reciprocate by withdrawing its own ambassadors, the situation remained tense amid speculation that it could even escalate.

Early reports that the dispute would be resolved soon were dismissed by Saudi Arabia that ruled out the possibility of international mediation in the standoff, and insisted that the conflict would not be resolved “until Qatar revises its policies”.

An ad-hoc committee made up of representatives from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar to discuss the points of contention has been holding meetings regularly in Riyadh, but no details have been leaked or decision been announced.

Visits by high-level officials from any of the four countries are often seen within the context of finding ways to ensure the situation does not escalate.

Loading...