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Saudi crown prince visits Qatar for first time since dispute

The visit comes months after Saudi Arabia lifted its embargo on Qatar
Mohammed bin Salman speaks during Wednesday's meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during Wednesday's meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (Reuters)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Qatar on Wednesday as part of a Gulf tour, four years after Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies cut ties with the country.

The embargo began in mid-2017 when Saudi Arabia and allies including the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain alleged Qatar backed militant Islamist groups and was cosying up to Iran. Qatar denied all allegations against it, but GCC countries ordered their citizens to leave Qatar, while Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave.

The dispute was resolved in January at a summit in the Saudi city of Al Ula. Wednesday marked the Saudi crown prince's first time back in neighbouring Qatar since the dispute began, in a sign of warming relations. 

Bin Salman was met by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and they held meetings together during the evening, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The visit comes shortly after a Saudi man arrested in connection with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was released by France. Saudi officials had maintained that France detained the wrong man and immediately called for the man thought to be Khaled Aedh al-Otaibi, a suspect in the 2018 killing, to be released.

A 2019 UN report on the murder found that Otaibi, a member of the Saudi royal guard, was inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey during the murder. He was also seen accompanying the crown prince during a trip to the United States in 2017, the report said.

Before arriving in Qatar, Bin Salman stopped off in Oman where agreements potentially totalling $30bn in investments were signed. He then visited the UAE, where he met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and attended Dubai's Expo 2020. He is expected to travel on to Bahrain and Kuwait ahead of the annual Gulf summit this month.