(Bloomberg) -- Qatar sent its prime minister to an annual gathering of Gulf Arab monarchs in the Saudi capital Tuesday, signaling progress in ending the 30-month regional rift though not enough for the country’s ruler to attend.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani will lead Qatar’s delegation at the request of the emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, according to a statement carried by the state-run Qatar News Agency.
Speculation that a breakthrough in the unprecedented showdown in the Gulf was imminent swirled after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to take part in a regional soccer tournament in Doha earlier this month. Qatar’s foreign minister also said talks with Saudi Arabia may yield positive results.
The three Gulf monarchies and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorist groups, a charge it has repeatedly denied.
While the prime minister attended an emergency Gulf summit in Saudi Arabia this year to discuss attacks on oil targets, the country has mostly sent lower-level representatives to regional meetings since the embargo.
Read: Qatar’s Emir Said Unlikely to Attend Gulf Summit in Riyadh (1)
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service, said he’s “personally disappointed” that Sheikh Tamim decided to skip the meeting, but said the kingdom was working to engage with Qatar.
“The initiative to bring the Qatar dispute to an end has been Saudi Arabia’s,” he told Bloomberg TV’s Anna Edwards and Matthew Miller in an interview. “We are the ones who are pushing for Qatar to come back to our fold.”
The recent participation by Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain in the Gulf Cup soccer tournament in Doha “was a sign that these three countries are willing to engage with Qatar,” Prince Turki said.
Still, a series of tit-for-tat Twitter exchanges between officials from Qatar and the U.A.E., which has been a staunch proponent of the embargo, showed that deep differences remained.
On Tuesday, in an apparent response to a tweet by the Qatari emir’s brother, U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash suggested that Qatar would have to “reverse incorrect policies” and “abide by covenants, regain its credibility and stop supporting extremism.”
(Updates with details throughout)
--With assistance from Alaa Shahine.
To contact the reporters on this story: Simone Foxman in Doha at firstname.lastname@example.org;Abbas Al Lawati in Dubai at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at firstname.lastname@example.org, Alaa Shahine, Amy Teibel
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