Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has turned down an invitation by Saudi Arabia to attend the annual meeting of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh.
The official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported on Tuesday that Sheikh Tamim had named Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani to lead the Qatari delegation to the 40th GCC summit, which is due to open in the Saudi capital later in the day.
The Qatari emir was invited to the meeting last week by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Sheikh Tamim’s no-show at the Riyadh meeting dampens hopes of reconciliation between Qatar and a Saudi-led bloc, which are involved in a 30-month diplomatic dispute.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates imposed a land, naval and air blockade on import-dependent Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism; an allegation strongly denied by Doha.
The Saudi-led bloc presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences. Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and stressed that it would not abandon its independent foreign policy.
Last year’s GCC summit was held in Riyadh, where Qatar was represented by its Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi.
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani reportedly made an unannounced visit to Riyadh in September.
Speaking at the Mediterranean Dialogues (MED) conference in Rome last week, the top Qatari diplomat said he hoped for “progress” in the efforts to settle the Persian Gulf rift.
“We have moved from a stalemate to some progress where… some talks took place between us and specifically Saudi,” he said. “We hope that these talks will lead to our progress where we can see an end for the crisis.”