Qatar ruler in Saudi Arabia for first time since rift eased

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Qatar’s ruling emir visited Saudi Arabia on Monday for the first time since signing a declaration with the kingdom and other Arab Gulf states to ease a years-long rift and end an embargo that had frayed ties among important U.S. allies and security partners.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was greeted at the airport by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, according to Saudi and Qatari state-run media.

The meeting highlights how ties between the neighbors are improving following a decision earlier this year by Saudi Arabia to end its more than three-year-long embargo of the tiny and wealthy Gulf state. It also signals a Saudi reset in foreign policy as a new administration led by President Joe Biden reassess U.S.-Saudi ties.

Qatar’s emir was last in Saudi Arabia for a high-level Gulf Arab summit that took place in January and which concluded with a declaration to ease the rift. It was his first visit to the kingdom since ties had frayed in mid-2017.

Qatar, which is hosting the FIFA soccer World Cup next year, emerged from the spat largely unscathed and resolute in the face of the assault. The campaign, led by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, achieved little in the face of forcing Qatar to change its policies and pushed the gas-rich nation in closer alliance with Turkey and Iran.

Qatar rejected the quartet’s demands, which included that it shutter its Al Jazeera news network, expel a small contingency of Turkish troops from its territory and cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha, meanwhile, continued to strengthen its relationship with Washington and denied the allegations made by the quartet that it supports extremists.

While direct flights and business ties were set to resume between Qatar and the quartet nations, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Arabic and English news websites continue to be blocked in the UAE.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister is traveling to Saudi Arabia for a two-day visit as Turkey seeks to mend ties with the kingdom that hit an all-time low over the 2018 killing in Istanbul of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The visit is the first by a high-level Turkish official since the killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate.

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