Qatar emir to skip Riyadh summit dampening thaw hopes

11 December, 2019 12:00 AM printer

DOHA: Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, will not attend the Gulf summit in Riyadh, state media reported Tuesday, dampening hopes of reconciliation between Doha and a Saudi-led bloc.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations it backs radical Islamists and seeks closer ties with Saudi arch rival Tehran, reports AFP.

Qatar vehemently denies the allegations.

The emir named Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani to lead the Qatari delegation to Tuesday's summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the official QNA news agency said.

Hopes of reconciliation were high after signs emerged of a thaw between Qatar and its former allies despite Doha's refusal to heed demands put forward by the boycotting countries.

Following Saudi King Salman's invitation to the emir, Qatar's foreign minister said there had been "some progress" in talks with Riyadh.

In a last-minute move last month, the three countries sent teams to a regional football tournament hosted by Qatar, leading to speculation of an imminent diplomatic breakthrough.

Some observers had said that the summit could pave the way for a "reconciliation conference".

Others remained sceptical, saying the king was only following protocol and had invited the Qatari leader to last year's summit as well.

The Qatari emir last year spurned that invitation and sent a representative instead, as he had to other summit since the crisis erupted in 2017.

Even though the emir will not attend the summit, negotiations to end the impasse are expected to continue, analysts say.

"Ending the Gulf rift is an incremental process of engagement and dialogue rather than something resolvable at a single summit meeting alone," said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute in the United States.