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Qatar to attend Saudi summits despite spat

OPEC oil ministers pose for a family photo before starting the meeting of the OPEC 14th Meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2019
OPEC oil ministers pose for a family photo before starting the meeting of the OPEC 14th Meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2019 Reuters /Waleed Ali

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman extended an invitation to Qatar, despite its boycotting of the neighbouring country, to attend emergency Gulf and Arab summits that kicks off in Mecca today.

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In response to the invitation, Qatar confirmed that Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani will attend the summits.

The summits are intended for Arab and Muslim leaders to rally support against arch-rival Iran over attacks on oil installations.

On the eve of these emergency summits, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) wrapped up its meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

In a statement made by US National Security Advisor John Bolton during a conference in the United Arab Emirates, he claimed Iran was almost certainly behind the sabotage of four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Iran targeted

Shortly after Bolton's comments, Riyadh blasted what it called Iranian “interference” in the region and demanded “firmness” on the recent attacks.

Despite the rallying of support against Iran, an Iranian delegation headed by Reza Najafi, the director general for international peace and security affairs at Iran’s foreign ministry, represented the at the OIC

This as the region continues its proxy-war in Yemen where Iran-aligned Houthi rebels led by Ali Abdullah Saleh, continue to fight a civil war against forces loyal to Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi.

An operation launched by Saudi Arabia, dubbed ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ has tried to push out the Houthis in a joint force task of nine countries from the Middle East and Africa, including Qatar.

Fallout with Qatar

On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia led the way in declaring a cut of diplomatic ties with its neighbor Qatar.

Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt followed suite right after.

Two main reasons led to the severing of diplomatic ties: Qatar’s alleged growing relationship with Iran and its harbouring of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has branches across the Middle East.

Since then embargos have been in place against the small kingdom, including a ban on shipping, trade, access to Saudi airspace, shutting down the border at Saudi Arabia, and kicking out Qatari nationals.

Qatar’s presence at the meeting will be the first time a high-ranking official sets foot in the Saudi kingdom since the diplomatic spat two years ago.

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