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Saudi crown prince to visit neighboring Qatar after blockade, yearslong rift

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Qatar on Wednesday, in a sign of thaws between the two Gulf kingdoms after years of helping him impose a blockade on the small but very wealthy country.

The visit, which comes after Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states announced in January to ease the years-long feud, marks a significant escalation of the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, who has led efforts to isolate Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremist groups. in the region.

“It very much shows that the crisis among the Gulf states has been addressed in one form or another,” said Neil Quilliam, associate fellow at Chatham House, a think tank for international affairs in London.

Office of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. chirp He will meet with the Crown Prince on Wednesday evening in Doha.

After a decade of confrontation, not a single country, or group of nations, has emerged as the winner in the Gulf, and it now faces similar economic challenges such as decarbonizing the global economy and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, Christian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow on the Middle East at the University of Baker Institute for Public Policy Rice, provided an explanation for the thaw in relationships.

The crown prince’s visit to Qatar and the Gulf tour also speak of a Saudi attempt to position him as a regional leader and suggest that while he remains persona non grata in most of the West, that is not the case in the Gulf, Coates Ulrichsen said.

“The Saudis are trying to portray Mohammed bin Salman as a completely different person from the image he made of himself in the Trump years,” he added, referring to the crown prince by his initials. “They show someone who can work with others, someone who will eventually be a king and who will be able to act as a king should.”

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE cut diplomatic, trade and travel links with Qatar in 2017, separating families and businesses and ripping off Gulf unity. The four countries alleged that the Qatari government supported groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of close ties to the regional enemy, Iran.

The embargo complicated US foreign policy in the Gulf as it strained relations between important US allies and security partners.

Qatar has skillfully expanded its political influence despite its small size, which has thwarted the traditional regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia. Qatar is home to a large US military base and has hosted talks between the US and the Taliban, In recent months, it played a major role in the US effort to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.

The Saudi crown prince’s visit is part of a broader tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

The round turned out to be already lucrative as Omani and Saudi companies signed 13 memoranda of understanding worth $30 billion and come ahead of the annual summit of the six-nation council this month, according to Reuters.

Qatar’s emir has already visited Saudi Arabia since a deal was reached to improve relations in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula in January.

But this time, it is the crown prince, who is widely seen as the force behind the Saudi throne, who will be the guest, a symbolic difference in a region where hosting is indicative of your approval of your guest, said Michael Stevens, an associate fellow at the Institute of Royal United Research Services in London.

“This represents a very important step in ending the tensions once and for all,” he said.

The crown prince’s tour comes after French President Emmanuel Macron became the first major Western leader to visit Riyadh since journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

In February, the Biden administration released an intelligence report concluding that the crown prince had approved the horrific killing. The crown prince denied any involvement.

Associated Press And Reuters Contributed.

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