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Saudi Arabia, Qatar end rift

DUBAI, Dec 9, (Agencies): Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince visited Qatar on Thursday, his first trip to Doha since the kingdom rallied other Arab states to end their yearsl ong rift and embargo of the tiny Gulf Arab state. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit also marked his third stop in the region this week as the Saudi heir to the throne tours the six U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council. His meetings with Arab rulers are aimed at fortifying the kingdom’s alliances as rival Iran resumes nuclear negotiations with world powers. The visit is particularly significant because last year at this time, the neighboring states were in the midst of a diplomatic standoff that had frayed familial ties in the region, fractured the close knit GCC and sparked churlish barbs in state-linked media as accusations of hacking and damaging leaks swirled.

In this photo released by Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, (center left), is greeted by Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani upon his arrival at Doha airport in Qatar, late Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is in Qatar for the first time since the kingdom rallied other Arab states to end their years-long rift and embargo on the tiny Gulf state. (AP)

Angered over Qatar’s support for Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its ties with Iran, the four nations of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar in mid-2017. They sealed their airspace to Qatari flights, shuttered Qatar’s only land border and expelled Qatari citizens from the quartet of nations. The move pushed Qatar closer to Turkey and Iran, which rushed to support the tiny-but-wealthy nation as it navigated the diplomatic assault. The regional standoff concluded earlier this year with an agreement signed by Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, Qatar did not give into a list of demands the quartet had made, including that it close down its Al Jazeera news channel and hand over wanted Islamists residing in exile.

Rather, Qatar has emerged a powerful mediator in the region. As host to the Mideast’s largest U.S. airbase, Qatar played a major role during the U.S.-led evacuation from Afghanistan over the summer and also in facilitating contact with the country’s Taliban rulers following the closure of Western embassies in Kabul. Qatar is also well positioned to play a role in easing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Prince Mohammed’s visit to Doha comes just days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Qatar for meetings. Relations between the two have been rocky since the 2018 killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Upon his arrival to Qatar late Wednesday, Prince Mohammed was greeted on the tarmac with an embrace from ruling Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The Qatar Amir earlier held talks with the Saudi Crown Prince, with the state news agency hailing the visit as a significant occurrence that would help propel bilateral ties to greater levels.

The visit comes at a critical time for the region, Qatar News Agency cited the Amir as saying, adding that Doha is glad to welcome the Saudi Crown Prince, who had embarked on a wider tour of the Gulf Arab region that had already taken him to Oman and the United Arab Emirates. “The brotherly ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia reflect their illustrious histories and intertwined fats, tweeted Sheikh Tamim, highlighting a “mutual desire” the two countries share for regional security and stability. The Saudi Crown Prince left Qatar on Thursday, ending a twoday official visit to the fellow GCC country. The Qatar News Agency said that the Saudi top official was seen off by the Amir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is to welcome Saudi Crown Prince, on Friday, based on firm fraternal relations between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on both official and unofficial levels, and in consolidation of amicable bonds between both countries’ leaders and peoples. This was announced by His Highness the Crown Prince’s Diwan Chief Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in a statement on the occasion of the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince and his accompanying delegation to Kuwait.

During the visit, talks will include a host of issues and subjects of mutual interest and ways of promoting and bolstering bilateral relations between both countries and brotherly peoples just to fulfill their common expectations and hopes for a brighter and more prosperous future, in addition to the latest regional and international developments, he said. Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah wished both nations progress and prosperity under the leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Kuwaiti-Saudi relations are an exceptional and unique model based on solid foundations built on historical brotherly ties between the two leaderships and the two peoples. Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit is the third since he took over as crown prince, as the first visit was in May 2015 when he was Deputy Crown Prince, and his 2nd was in September 2018 after becoming the Crown Prince on June 21, 2017. The Kuwaiti-Saudi relations are deep-rooted, extending for more than 130 years, bypassing the dimensions of international relations to the concept of brotherhood, social ties, and the same destiny. As part of continuing mutual visits, the visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to the kingdom to head the Kuwaiti delegation, last January, to the Gulf Summit (Al-Ula), together with the visit of the Saudi king to Kuwait in December 2016.

The visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to the Kingdom on October 25 to attend the “Green Middle East Initiative” summit was a continuation of this approach, and it was the second visit for His Highness the Crown Prince following his first tour in June. This exceptional relationship was manifested in its best form in the Saudi position in support of Kuwait and defending its legitimacy and independence during the brutal Iraqi invasion in 1990. The Kingdom’s reception of Kuwait’s political leadership, the government and the people on its lands, providing assistance in all its forms and its active contribution to the establishment of the participating countries coalition in liberating Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation in 1991. Furthermore, Kuwait has spared no effort in supporting Saudi Arabia at all levels in full solidarity with it in every measure taken to maintain its security and stability.

The cooperation between the two countries included all fields, leading to the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council on May 25, 1981, which accomplished many achievements for Gulf countries within the framework of joint action. The two countries signed several agreements that covered various fields, including media, scientific, cultural, economic, air transport services, facilitating citizens’ movement of both countries, fl ow of goods across the borders, and exchange of scholarships for citizens of both countries. They also inked memoranda of understanding for cooperation in fields of Islamic affairs and provide facilities for pilgrims, which are always preceded by coordination and consultative meetings, positively reflecting on the two brotherly people.

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