Saudi Crown Prince arrives in Qatar for first visit since blockade ended

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Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Qatar on Wednesday on a tour of the Gulf, marking his first visit to the country after the two sides severed relations four years ago. year.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017, alleging it supported radical Islamist groups and was too close to Riyadh’s rival Tehran, allegations Doha denied.

But relations were fully restored in January after a historic high in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula.

Crown Prince Mohammed was greeted by Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with whom he will speak, the official Saudi press agency said.

His tour comes as a flurry of diplomacy occurs to resolve regional disputes, particularly with Iran and Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Qatar this week for two days of talks.

Ankara and Doha had become economic and political partners of late, with Erdogan’s government notably supporting Doha during the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar.

Turkey – which is reeling from a new economic crisis and in search of foreign investment and trade – has sought to rebuild relations with former Gulf rivals including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia .

There have also been signs this year of a thaw between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have held several rounds of talks since April aimed at improving relations.

Latent tensions between Ankara and Riyadh escalated after the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The Khashoggi case The arrest on Tuesday in Paris of a man suspected of being involved in Khashoggi’s murder had threatened to eclipse Prince Mohammed’s tour of the Gulf.

The crown prince’s global image has been marred by the murder of Khashoggi, who had criticized Saudi authorities.

But France on Wednesday released the Saudi man carrying a passport in the name of Khalid al-Otaibi after realizing that he was not the same person wanted under an arrest warrant issued by Turkey.

Prince Mohammed arrived in Doha after a visit to the United Arab Emirates, where he met Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed and visited the Expo 2020 site.

Security was tight at the Expo, where the lavish Saudi pavilion was closed to visitors and a small crowd of spectators, including women in black dresses, gathered outside.

Saudi songs, including one with the lyrics “Welcome Mohammed”, played over the loudspeaker at Al Wasl Plaza, the site’s central location.

The two countries issued a joint statement on Wednesday, saying they were determined to “strengthen the unity and stability of the Gulf Cooperation Council”, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

The Saudi prince had arrived in the United Arab Emirates from Oman, where the two sides have signed deals potentially totaling $ 30 billion, and will also visit Bahrain on Thursday, then visit Kuwait.

Prince Mohammed sought to position himself as a champion of modernization and reform, even as his international reputation was affected by the murder of Khashoggi.

The crown prince has said he accepts overall responsibility for Saudi Arabia but denies any personal connection, with the kingdom saying it was the work of “rogue” agents.

(AXADLETM with AFP)

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