Saudi Prince Praises Qatar's Economy in Surprising Shift

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman acknowledged the resilience of Qatar’s “strong economy” in a surprising shift of tone for the man who has spent more than a year enforcing an embargo against the small gas-rich emirate.

“Even Qatar, despite our differences with them, has a very strong economy and will be very different” in the next five years, the prince said at an investment summit in the Saudi capital as he explained his vision for the Middle East’s place in the world. He listed Qatar among the countries in the region capable of changing for the better in the next five years.

The comments came as Prince Mohammed is under growing international pressure to fully explain the killing in Istanbul of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2, a murder which officials in Turkey have suggested may have been ordered by the prince himself.

Shortly before he spoke at the conference, Prince Mohammed -- Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler -- telephoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has called on all those responsible for the critic’s murder to be punished, even top officials. Erdogan’s Turkey has forged closer ties with Qatar since the embargo was announced in June 2017.

Saudi Arabia and three of its Arab allies hit Qatar with the economic and diplomatic boycott over its links to Iran and alleged funding of terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

A government statement described the prince’s remarks as a “powerful message on regional unity with Qatar as part of it.”

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