Qatari emir heads to Saudi Arabia for summit set to lift years-long blockade

Dubai, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Tuesday flew to Saudi Arabia to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, which is set to end a years-long row between Riyadh and its supporters and Doha.

The Qatari official news agency said in a tweet that bin Hamad was to arrive “to the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to chair the State of Qatar’s delegation” that would participate in the 41st session of the GCC Summit, taking place in the northwestern governorate of al-Ula on Tuesday.

The announcement of bin Hamad’s participation came on Monday night, when Kuwait announced that Saudi Arabia had agreed to reopen air, sea and land borders with Qatar.

This step marks the first time bin Hamad has attended a Gulf summit since 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-Gulf Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting militant groups and sponsoring terrorism, accusations that Doha denies.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had invited the Qatari emir to attend the summit back in December, but his participation was only confirmed on Monday.

Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al Sabah said that the two sides will sign a summit statement, which “would signal the turn of a new leaf in intra-Gulf relations,” according to KUNA news agency.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash in a tweet on Monday also called the summit “historic”, describing it as a vehicle through which Gulf unity will be restored.

“We will be keen that the security, stability and prosperity of our countries and peoples are the first priority,” Gargash said.

The meeting in al-Ula governorate will convene amid optimism about ending the rift, one of the most serious diplomatic spats the GCC has had since it was created in 1981.

Last month, the UAE and Egypt cautiously welcomed mediation efforts by Kuwait and the United States to end the crisis.

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