Saudi Arabia Unexpectedly Invites Qatar’s Emir to GCC Summit

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emir of Qatar Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Rabat – After an 18-month blockade of Qatar, Saudi Arabia finally made an initial move to defuse the tension with its neighboring country.

The move comes  as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman struggles to overcome the diplomatic crisis and international condemnation he faces for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Emir Sheikh Tamim “received a written message from King of Saudi Arabia, inviting HH the Amir to attend the 39th Summit of the Supreme Council of the GCC that will be hosted by the Kingdom on December 9,” Qatar News Agency (QNA) tweeted on December 4.

However, QNA did not say whether Sheikh Tamim would travel to Saudi Arabia to attend the summit.

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The Bahraini secretary general of the GCC, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, delivered the invitation during a reception held by Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi, reported Al Jazeera.

Saudi Arabia’s invitation comes a day after Qatar’s decision to withdraw from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

In a shift from his previous tone, Prince Mohammed unexpectedly praised Qatar’s economy as “strong” at a conference in Saudi Arabia in October, following Khashoggi’s murder.

Last month, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah confirmed that all six GCC countries would attend the annual summit.

Al Jarallah said the summit could present a “hope to resolve the Gulf crisis and solve the differences.”

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On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt all cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar after alleged accusation of “funding terrorism and for having a too-close relation with Iran.”

Qatar’s denied the accusations saying they were unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.

Since then, Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on Doha. Other Arab and Muslim countries joined the blockade campaign.

Later that month, the Saudi-led bloc released a list of 13 demands, including “the closure of Al Jazeera television network and a downgrade of relations with Iran,” so as to normalize their diplomatic relations with Doha. However, Qatar rejected the demands as it found them to be “unreasonable.”