Qatar FM says ‘some progress’ in mending Gulf rift

Doha, Dec 7 (AFP/APP): Qatar’s foreign minister said on Friday there has been “some progress” in talks with Saudi Arabia on ending a bitter two-year-old rift between Doha and the kingdom and its allies.

A Saudi-led bloc also including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations it backs radical Islamists and seeks closer ties with Saudi arch rival Iran.

Doha vehemently denies the charges.

In the latest sign of a thaw between the two sides, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said there had been “some progress” in talks with Saudi Arabia, according to the Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

“In recent weeks, we have moved from a stalemate to some progress where some talks took place between us and, specifically, Saudi,” he said at the Mediterranean Dialogues forum in Rome.

“We hope these talks will lead to progress where we can see an end (to) the crisis.”

The Qatari minister said the talks took place under Kuwaiti mediation and thanked Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, for his “continuous efforts and commitment”.

The talks come shortly after Saudi King Salman invited Qatar’s emir to a summit of the Gulf regional bloc in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Some Saudi observers have downplayed the king’s invitation, saying he was only following protocol and had invited the Qatari leader to last year’s summit too.

The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, spurned that invitation, sending a representative instead, as he had to other summits since the economic embargo was imposed in June 2017.

But signs of a thaw have emerged despite Doha’s refusal to heed the boycotting countries’ demands that it close Al-Jazeera television, downgrade ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base in Qatar.

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