DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar's foreign minister arrived in Abu Dhabi and met Wednesday with its crown prince, the clearest sign so far that relations between the two Gulf Arab states are easing following a lengthy embargo that strained ties and echoed across the region.
The United Arab Emirates' state-run WAM news agency reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at al-Bahr Palace in Abu Dhabi. The brief report said only that the two “discussed the strong ties between their countries and ways to enhance them to serve the interests of their nations.”
Relations between the two, however, have been anything but strong since mid-2017, when the UAE was part of a four-nation boycott of Qatar to try and force the small gas-rich nation to stop its support of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, which Abu Dhabi views as a direct threat to its ruling system.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain were also part of that boycott effort aimed at pressuring Qatar, including demands it curb ties with Iran.
Ultimately, after 3 1/2 years, Saudi Arabia led the effort to end to the Gulf-wide spat just before President Joe Biden was sworn in. The embargo of Qatar, which included blocking Qatari flights from their national airspace and shuttering its only land border, largely failed to achieve its aim of forcing the tiny nation to change course.
The diplomatic standoff deeply divided regional U.S. allies, frayed social ties across the Arabian Peninsula and drew searing media attacks, lobbying efforts in Western capitals, allegations of hacking and political mud-slinging.
While the full restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has progressed, relations between the UAE and Qatar still remain shaken, given how sharp the divisions were. The visit by Qatar's foreign minister to the UAE is seen as a significant step toward easing the strained relationship.
The visit comes a little more than a month after Abu Dhabi sent national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Qatar for the first such high-level visit by an Emirati official since ties were severed. Prior to that trip, Sheikh Tahnoun had traveled to Turkey — a key backer of Qatar — as part of a wider recalibration by the UAE of its foreign policy following the unsuccessful attempt at isolating Qatar.