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Wed 23 Jul 2014 10:21 AM

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Qatar emir meets Saudi king in Jeddah to discuss Gaza fighting

First meeting between the leaders since a major rift earlier this year

Qatar emir meets Saudi king in Jeddah to discuss Gaza fighting
Qatars Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. (Getty Images)

Qatar's Emir
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Jeddah on Tuesday to meet Saudi
Arabia's King Abdullah for talks that focused on the situation in Gaza,
according to SPA, the Saudi press agency.

A Doha-based source familiar with the matter told
Reuters that the primary purpose of the emir's visit is to find a way to reach
a ceasefire agreement in Gaza. More than 600 people are reported to have been
killed there in two weeks of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis.

"Qatar is committed to the Palestinian people
and wants to do everything to stop the killing," said the source.
"The emir's visit to Saudi comes as part of that."

The meeting is the first for the two monarchs since
a major rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia earlier this year. It comes as Doha
has emerged as a possible peacemaker after the Islamist Hamas group, which
controls Gaza, rejected a proposal for a ceasefire by Egypt, a close ally of
Saudi Arabia.

Hamas demanded instead that any accord must include
lifting a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the Gaza Strip and a return
to an understanding that ended a previous round of fighting in 2012.

On Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met
Qatar's emir in Doha and in an appeal filmed in the Gulf state stressed the
unity of the Palestinian people. Officials from Abbas's camp told Reuters that
their conditions were aligned with those of Hamas.

Qatar bankrolled the elected Muslim Brotherhood
government of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who was overthrown by the
military a year ago.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have since poured in money
to support Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who led the takeover in Egypt and has since
been elected president after outlawing and suppressing the Brotherhood.

Under his rule, Egypt has tightened its hold on the
southern end of the Gaza Strip, closing tunnels to try to block supplies of
weapons and prevent militants crossing.

Egyptian officials suspect Qatar encouraged Hamas
to reject the ceasefire plan Cairo put forward last week. Hamas sources in
Doha, however, say Qatar did not influence their decisions.

A Saudi source familiar with the matter told
Reuters that the king plans to tell the emir to have all mediation efforts done
through Egypt.

"Dealing with issues related to the
Palestinians has always and will always be Egypt's historical role, Qatar will
be told to stay out," said the source.

Qatar denies any ulterior motive and notes that
Washington has openly asked it to talk to Hamas. Foreign Minister Khaled
Al Attiyah said on Sunday Qatar's role was just to facilitate communication.

"Qatar is helping us in communicating our
message, that's all it is," said a Doha-based Hamas source. He added that
the group was never approached by the Egyptian authorities, and it could not
agree to a deal it had never been part of.