UAE president visits Qatar in sign of warming ties, lauds World Cup success

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By Reuters
UAE president visits Qatar in sign of warming ties, lauds World Cup success

DOHA -The United Arab Emirates (UAE) president held talks in Qatar on Monday on the first such visit since Saudi Arabia and three allies ended a boycott of Doha nearly two years ago, lauding Doha’s hosting of the World Cup as a “success” for all Arabs.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, UAE de facto ruler for years before becoming president in May, met with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on the brief visit before returning to Abu Dhabi where he is due to meet Israel’s president.

This “is another step towards strengthening Gulf solidarity and joint action,” Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the Emirati president, said on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt early last year ended a 3-1/2 year embargo of Qatar, but ties between Doha and Abu Dhabi had not warmed at the same pace as those with Riyadh and Cairo, which re-established diplomatic ties with Doha.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and Egypt’s president attended the opening World Cup ceremony in Doha on Nov. 20 while the UAE sent Dubai’s ruler, who is also the Gulf state’s vice-president.

Sheikh Mohammed said Doha’s hosting of the tournament, the first held in the Middle East, was “a success and honour for all” Gulf states and wider Arab world, UAE state media reported.

The political dispute that had seen Riyadh and its allies sever all ties with Qatar – over its support for Islamist groups they deem a threat to Gulf dynastic rule and its ties with rivals Iran and Turkey – had shattered the six-nation Gulf bloc.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have since moved to engage with Shi’ite Muslim Iran in a bid to contain tensions and mend ties with Turkey as they focus on economic development.

The UAE’s national security adviser had visited Doha twice as part of Abu Dhabi’s push to manage regional differences.

Bahrain and Qatar have yet to hold bilateral talks. Abu Dhabi, like Manama, has not appointed an envoy to Doha, but restored travel and trade links with Qatar.

This allowed the UAE to benefit from an influx of soccer fans under partnerships by Doha for daily shuttle flights with neighbouring cities for the World Cup.

Sheikh Mohammed is due to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog who landed in Abu Dhabi on Monday after visiting Bahrain, which along with the UAE forged ties with Israel in 2020.