Qatar’s foreign minister has said he hopes for “progress” in the efforts to resolve the Gulf diplomatic crisis following talks with Saudi Arabia, adding that the parties have “moved from a stalemate” in the two-year dispute.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani made the comments on Friday while speaking at a foreign policy conference in Rome amid signs of thawing tensions between Qatar and its neighbours.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt, imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Qatar and cut off diplomatic ties with it in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism”. Qatar has repeatedly denied the accusations.
At the time, the quartet set 13 demands for lifting the blockade, including the closing down of Al Jazeera Media Network, shuttering a Turkish military base and reducing ties with Iran.
“We have moved from a stalemate to some progress where … some talks took place between us and specifically Saudi,” the Qatari foreign minister said at the MED 2019 conference.
“We hope that these talks will lead to our progress where we can see an end for the crisis.”
He added that several meetings had taken place between officials of both countries in different places, refusing to confirm reports that he has recently visited the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for talks.
The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that the foreign minister had made the unannounced visit in October. There, he met senior Saudi officials and made an offer to end the regional rift, an Arab official told the newspaper. It was the highest-level visit by a Qatari official to the kingdom since May when Qatar’s prime minister attended an Arab summit in Mecca.
Saudi King Salman also recently sent a “written message” inviting Qatar’s emir to an annual meeting of the Gulf regional bloc, which will be held in Riyadh next week. The 40th session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit is scheduled to take place on December 10. The GCC is composed of Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
A Qatari delegation headed by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi represented the country at last year’s GCC summit, which was also held in Riyadh.
In another sign of possible de-escalation, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, in a last-minute about-face in November, reversed their decision to boycott the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup in Doha.