Qatar emir invited to GCC summit in Riyadh

Qatar emir invited to GCC summit in Riyadh
Qatar emir invited to GCC summit in Riyadh

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - The summit will be held on December 10.

Saudi King Salman has invited Qatar's emir to a meeting next week of the Gulf regional bloc in Riyadh, Qatari state media said Tuesday, without specifying if Doha had accepted.

The invitation to the December 10 summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation (GCC) comes amid signs of reduced animosity between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which has led an economic boycott of Doha since 2017.

Saudi Arabia and allies Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE closed their airspace to Qatar Airways and banned travel to the country over charges that Doha backs extremists and seeks closer ties with Iran.

Qatar vehemently denies the charges.

The three Gulf boycott countries are currently participating in a regional football tournament in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, which has also sealed its land-border with Qatar, will play the hosts at the semi-finals on Thursday.

"The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, received a written message from... Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to attend the (GCC) summit," the Qatar News Agency reported.

The emir has been represented by senior officials at GCC summits since the blockade was imposed, despite having received invitations.

Regional analyst and King's College London assistant professor Andreas Krieg said he believed that Riyadh had pushed for the gathering to be shifted from the UAE to Saudi Arabia to increase the likelihood of the emir attending.

"Talks that have been held over the last couple of weeks, including the ones with the foreign minister, have centred on a lift of the blockade from the Saudi side," he said.

The latest signs of progress have emerged despite Doha resolutely refusing to bow to the boycotting countries' demands that it shutter its Al Jazeera broadcaster, downgrade ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base in Qatar.

The regional schism has seen Qatari businesses face increased costs as well as complicated regional travel and diplomatic efforts.

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