UAE Royal Visits Qatar for First Time Since Boycott Ended

A senior United Arab Emirates royal visited Qatar to meet with its emir, the first high-level engagement between the ruling families since the end of a bitter three-year dispute that cut Doha off from many of its neighbors. 

Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE national security adviser, led the delegation to Qatar that included talks with ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported on Thursday. 

The surprise meeting follows years of hostility between the two Gulf states and came nearly a week after Sheikh Tahnoun visited Turkey, which has been on the opposite side to the UAE in recent regional conflicts. 

The diplomacy has broad implications at a time of uncertainty in the region. States are assessing how to deal with Afghanistan, where the Taliban have returned to power, and regional heavyweight Iran is weighing how to proceed with talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers. 

It could also point to a reduction in tensions between alliances that emerged after the Arab Spring; one that supported political Islam, spearheaded by Turkey and Qatar, and another that opposed it championed by the UAE.

“The meeting touched upon bilateral relations and ways to further develop cooperation between the two countries, especially in the economic and trade fields,” as well as achieving the common interests of the two countries, according to WAM. 

The boycott of Qatar by Gulf states ended in January as Saudi Arabia pushed for reconciliation. The standoff, which erupted in June 2017, had stopped trade and transport links, including commercial flights, between Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. 

The boycotting nations accused Qatar of meddling in their internal affairs, supporting Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and building ties with Iran, charges it denied. 

Over the course of the dispute, UAE state-controlled media often bashed the Qatari emir, accusing him of wasting resources to help Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The belligerence of the attacks shocked many in the Gulf, where disputes are rarely aired in public.

Trade between the UAE and Qatari has resumed but ties remained cool, reflecting lingering mistrust.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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