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Wed 13 Nov 2019 08:46 AM

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Saudi, UAE to attend Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar

Bahrain also expected to take part in the Arabian Gulf Cup

Saudi, UAE to attend Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar
(GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have agreed to take part in this year’s Arabian Gulf Cup soccer tournament in Qatar, signalling a thaw in their more than two-year-old feud.

The three Gulf Arab states cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting Islamist extremists and being too close to their regional rival Iran. But signs have emerged in recent months that a rapprochement could be looming.

Earlier this year, Qatar’s prime minister attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia in the highest-level visit since the rift. Last week, a senior Saudi official said in Washington that Qatar had started taking steps to mend relations with its neighbours.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said in a tweet it had accepted the invitation to take part in the tournament. The UAE Football Association also decided to take part, the official WAM news agency said.

A Gulf official said Bahrain would join those countries in a signal that the stand-off was on its way to being resolved.

The apparent thaw comes amid growing fears that the region could slide toward war as the US raises economic pressure on Iran. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have worked to de-escalate in recent months, particularly since an attack on key oil installations in the energy-exporting kingdom and a spate of assaults on shipping in the Gulf.

The Qatar crisis itself has proved surprisingly difficult to solve despite repeated US appeals for unity among its allies, and mediation efforts by Kuwait.

Kuwait, which has taken a more neutral stance, had urged Saudi Arabia to participate in the games as a goodwill gesture meant to dial down the frictions.