Qatar is sending its prime minister to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia Tuesday, its highest level of representation at the annual meeting in two years and the most concrete sign yet of a potential thaw in a regional dispute.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations it backs extremists and seeks closer ties with Saudi arch rival Tehran. Qatar vehemently denies the allegations.
The emir named Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani to lead the Qatari delegation to Tuesday’s summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the official QNA said.
Hopes of reconciliation were high after signs of a thaw between Qatar and its former allies.
Following Saudi King Salman’s invitation to the emir, Qatar’s foreign minister said there had been “some progress” in talks with Riyadh. Some observers had said that the summit could pave the way for a “reconciliation conference”.
Others remained sceptical, saying he was only following protocol and had invited the Qatari leader to last year’s summit as well.
Qatar’s prime minister attended a series of talks in Saudi Arabia in May, one of the first high-level contacts of the two-year boycott. Even before the Saudi-led blockade, relations had been rocky, in part because of Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of the region’s affairs and Doha’s support for the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.
The rift has seen the two sides trade barbs on everything from access to the Muslim holy city of Mecca to alleged Twitter hacking.