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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Saudi Crown Prince MBS to visit Qatar in coming days: reports

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The Iran nuclear deal is among the topics on the Saudi royal’s agenda during his visit to the Gulf state.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] is heading to Qatar in the coming days as part of a five-day Gulf tour starting from Monday, diplomatic sources told DPA news agency on Saturday.

MBS’s upcoming regional tour is the first to take place since the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] summit in Al-Ula, which took place on 5 January this year. The summit saw the signing of the Al-Ula declaration between the GCC and Egypt, ending an illegal air, land and sea blockade imposed on Qatar in 2017.

Doha-Riyadh relations have particularly improved since the signing of the accord.

Saudi-based sources told the DPA that the tour will begin in Oman, followed by Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Kuwait.

The sources noted that the crown prince’s visit focuses on enhancing cooperation between the GCC countries in all fields as well as issues concerning the region, including the outcomes of the comprehensive Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and UN Security Council Resolution No. 2216.

The Iranian nuclear file is also on the agenda, as talks aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] continue to take place in Vienna.

The JCPOA and impact of Iran’s nuclear activity on the region are among the main topics to be discussed at the 42nd GCC summit, reportedly taking place on 14 December in Saudi Arabia, the sources added.

However, the GCC’s official website has yet to confirm the date and location of the upcoming session.

Former Qatari official urges GCC to engage with Iran as US winds down regional role

Last month, the US and the GCC called for the restoration of the JCPOA while accusing Iran of causing “a nuclear crisis”. Washington along with the bloc called on Iran to “fully cooperate” with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA].

Qatar repeatedly stressed the importance of resuming nuclear talks and said it would “spare no effort” in ensuring that the JCPOA is restored.

When the GCC crisis was resolved earlier this year, Qatar offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. On the other hand, it offered to mediate between Abu Dhabi, Tehran and Ankara.

In January, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani called for talks to deescalate tensions between major players in the region in an interview with Bloomberg.

Almost a year into the accord signed between the GCC countries and Egypt, there have appeared to be changes in Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s foreign policies.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in several rounds of talks over the past months, with positive statements being released from both sides.

Qatar-Saudi relations

Earlier this month, Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia was moved further towards the kingdom, expanding the peninsula’s geographical boundaries.

Khawr al Udayd is located in Al Wakrah Municipality in southeast Qatar, on the border with Saudi Arabia. The Qatari flag was raised following the agreement with the kingdom on demarcating the border between both nations.

In August, Qatari and Saudi delegations met to establish a coordination council to advance bilateral relations and partnerships between the two Gulf nations as part of Saudi’s Vision 2030 and Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

The same month also saw Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud saying relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar were “very good”.

In August, Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani appointed Bandar Mohamed Abdullah Al Attiyah as the country’s first ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the first such appointment since the 2017 GCC crisis erupted.

This came two months after Doha received its first Saudi Ambassador Prince Mansour bin Khalid bin Farhan in June, which was seen as a major step toward restoring ties between the two neighbouring countries.

In September, Amir Tamim was pictured with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE’s National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed after a “cordial” meeting in the Red Sea.

The image of the three Gulf officials, all pictured donning casual shorts and shirts, went viral online.

Sheikh Tamim has also participated in the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh in October at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince.

The participation of Sheikh Tamim in Riyadh was yet another indicator of developing relations between Doha and Riyadh, both of which were involved in a bitter dispute that left Qatar blockaded for three years.


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