Qatar PM to Visit Saudi Arabia for First Time Since Blockade Imposed Two Years Ago

Meanwhile, Arab media reported a Qatari royal already flight landed at Jeddah airport Wednesday for first time since Gulf Crisis began

File photo: Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, March 31, 2019.
Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Qatar’s prime minister will travel to Saudi Arabia for two summits in the kingdom, authorities announced Wednesday. This would mark the  highest-level contact between the neighboring nations since a Saudi-led boycott of Doha began in 2017.

It remains unclear what such a trip could mean for the ongoing boycott, part of a political dispute between Qatar and four Arab nations — Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Also on Wednesday, Arab media reported that a Qatari royal flight landed at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia, for the first time since the Gulf crisis began two years ago.

Qatar Today tweeted that the plane "is landing at Jeddah airport for the first time since the outbreak of the Gulf crisis and the siege of Qatar." 

>> Read more: Despite Saudi blockade, Qatar plans to attend Trump peace conference in Bahrain

The reported visit that took place on Wednesday, the first since 2017, comes days after Qatar's Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani received an invitation from Saudi Arabia's King Salman to attemd two summits in Mecca, according to a statement by Qatar's Foreign Ministry. 

It confirmed on Sunday it has been invited by Saudi Arabia to attend the emergency summits, after previously saying it had not been.

The four nations say the Gulf Crisis stems from Qatar's support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. They have also pointed to Qatar's close relationship with Iran, with which it shares a massive offshore gas field that provides the peninsular nation its wealth. Qatar restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute.

Last week Qatar said it had not been invited to the two summits Saudi Arabia is planning in Islam's holiest site to discuss the implications of drone strikes on oil installations in the kingdom and attacks on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the United Arab Emirates coast earlier this month.

The invitation and a letter was passed to Qatar by the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the statement said, without saying whether Qatar would accept it.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on Qatar since June 2017 over allegations that Doha supports terrorism and is cosying up to regional foe Iran. Qatar denies the charges.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of ordering the drone strikes, for which Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility.

The kingdom said that while it did not want war in the region, it was ready to respond strongly. The UAE has not blamed anyone for the sabotage of the tankers pending an investigation, and said it was committed to de-escalation.

Iran has denied it carried out either attack.

The UAE has said that the current "critical circumstances" in the region required a "unified Arab and Gulf stance."