'Small Progress' in Mending Gulf Countries' Dispute, Qatar Says

Qatari finance minister says Doha still 'a big believer of the GCC' after premier visits Saudi Arabia for first time in two and a half years since diplomatic ties cut over alleged terror links

Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani looks on as other delegates of the GCC summit chat with each other, in Riyadh on December 10, 2019.

There has been small progress in resolving a bitter dispute between Qatar and some of its neighbours, the Gulf state's foreign minister said on Saturday, just days after its premier visited Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing terrorism. Doha denies the charge and accuses its neighbors of seeking to curtail its sovereignty.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani attended an annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, its highest representation at the meeting since 2017.

Asked whether there was progress at the meeting of regional leaders, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told Reuters at the Doha Forum in Qatar that there has been "small progress, just a little progress."

The premier's visit followed an intensification of efforts to resolve the row including unannounced Qatar-Saudi talks in October. There was no public mention of the two-and-a-half year dispute at the summit.

The row has shattered the GCC alliance, a bloc of Sunni-ruled Arab monarchies in the Gulf that have close ties with the United States, including hosting American military bases.

Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi said the world's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter remains "a big believer of the GCC."

The United States and Kuwait have tried to mediate the dispute that has undermined Washington's efforts to form a united front against Iran, which is locked in a struggle for regional supremacy with Saudi Arabia.

"We hope they can work out their issues amongst them because I do think there are bigger regional security issues that everyone needs to be unified on," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Speaking alongside the Qatari finance minister, Mnuchin praised Qatari efforts at combating illicit financing of terrorism.

"I think they have made an enormous effort in this region on this issue," he said at the Doha Forum.