Qatar appoints first ambassador to Saudi Arabia since rift

Bandar Mohamed al-Attiyah previously acted as Qatar’s ambassador to Kuwait, a mediator in a years-long regional row.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is pictured via screen as he attends the Gulf Cooperation Council's 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia [File: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is further strengthening diplomatic ties to Saudi Arabia, reinstating an ambassador after a four-year-long regional dispute.

Bandar Mohamed Abdullah al-Attiyah, who was appointed as part of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, has previously served as Qatar’s ambassador to Kuwait, which had mediated in the Gulf spat.

In June 2107, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirate, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a land, air and maritime embargo on the gas-rich country. The four blocking countries accused Qatar of backing armed groups and of being too close to Iran. The allegations were vehemently denied by Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have both re-established diplomatic ties with Qatar, but the UAE and Bahrain have yet to do so. All but Bahrain have restored trade and travel links.

During the regional spat, Qatar rejected the quartet’s demands – which included that it shut down the Al Jazeera Media Network and expel a small contingency of Turkish troops from its territory.

Marking a major breakthrough in the Gulf dispute, the blockading countries agreed in January to restore ties in a summit hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the desert city of Al-Ula, following a flurry of diplomatic activity by the administration of former United States’s President Donald Trump.

In another diplomatic improvement last month, Qatar, which is hosting the football World Cup next year, appointed an ambassador to Egypt, following a similar move by Cairo in June.

Saudi Arabia has taken the lead among the four in mending ties with small but wealthy, gas-producing Qatar, scoring points with a key ally, the US, while also standing to benefit economically as it seeks to lure more foreign investment.

In January, heeding outgoing US President Donald Trump’s wish to re-establish a united Arab front against Iran, and eager to impress new President Joe Biden, Riyadh declared an end to the boycott and said its three allies were on board.

But a senior UAE official has said it would take time to rebuild trust while Bahrain and Doha have yet to hold bilateral talks aimed at mending ties.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies