Saudi crown prince visits Qatar to heal rift

March 12, 2008 - 0:0

DOHA (AFP) -- Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz arrived in Doha on Monday on a visit that seals a thaw in ties between Saudi Arabia and Qatar after years of tensions.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani greeted the Saudi royal after he flew in on the three-day official visit, Qatari and Saudi media said.
""The visit ... confirms the warm relations between the two brotherly countries,"" which are seeking to promote cooperation between them ""to serve their joint interests and boost the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC),"" Prince Sultan was quoted as saying on arrival.
He later held talks with the Qatari ruler which focused on bilateral ties and ""regional and international issues of common concern,"" according to the state QNA news agency.
Although Saudi King Abdullah attended a Persian Gulf regional summit in Doha in December, this is the first bilateral official visit by a Saudi leader to Qatar since relations between the two Persian Gulf neighbors soured in 2002.
A Saudi official told AFP that the crown prince will hold talks with the Qatari emir on ""events in the Persian Gulf region and Arab world.""
Oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia last month decided to name its ambassador in Syria as its top envoy to Qatar, the first time it has sent an ambassador to the tiny gas-rich Persian Gulf state since recalling his predecessor in 2002.
The new ambassador, Ahmad bin Ali al-Kahtani, has already taken up his post.
The previous ambassador was recalled when the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel aired a debate in which participants strongly criticized the Saudi royal family.
Qatar kept its ambassador in Saudi Arabia.
Ties have thawed between the two wealthy neighbors, with King Abdullah attending the annual summit of the six-member PGCC in Doha in December, three months after Qatar's emir visited him in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah.
The Qatari ruler has also attended PGCC, Arab, and OPEC summits in Riyadh over the past 15 months.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani told reporters that there was no specific agenda for Sultan's visit, but the talks will cover ""all that can help bolster bilateral ties and the march of the PGCC.""
The Saudi-Qatari strains were reported to be behind the blocking of a project six years ago to build a pipeline to carry Qatari gas to Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia opposed the proposed pipeline which was to pass through its territory, and Qatar has since said the project has been dropped.