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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, October 18, 2018

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Top Saudi Officials Head to Qatar in Effort to Heal Rift

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal

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DUBAI- Three Saudi princes, including Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, flew to Qatar on Wednesday, state media reported, amid efforts to repair a rift in the U.S.-allied Gulf Cooperation Council.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors to Qatar in March, accusing Doha of failing to abide by an agreement not to interfere in one another's internal affairs. So far, efforts to resolve the dispute have failed.

The meeting comes amid growing concern in the Gulf over an increasing threat from the Islamic State, a splinter group of al-Qaida. The IS has captured swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, next door to some Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia's SPA news agency said Prince Saud and the head of general intelligence, Prince Khaled bin Bandar, and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef arrived in Doha on a "short brotherly visit". Qatar's QNA news agency carried a similar report, giving no details on the purpose of the trip.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE fell out with Qatar over the role of Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in the region. Gulf officials have said the three want Qatar to end any financial or political support for the Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Oman met last week to review efforts to heal the rift, but Gulf media have said no breakthrough occurred.

Kuwait's al-Watan newspaper quoted Gulf diplomatic sources as saying that resolving the dispute was "facing difficulties". They said Saudi Arabia in particular had compiled a long list of notes on what it called Qatar's failure to abide by an agreement that bars countries from interfering in each other's affairs.

GCC officials are due to hold another meeting on Saturday, which has been described as having "special importance". The meeting, announced this week, is expected to discuss "a number of issues related to the path of GCC joint action".

In April, the body agreed on ways to implement a security agreement they reached last year, which Riyadh, Manama and Abu Dhabi, had accused Doha of not abiding by.

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