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Wed 27 Aug 2014 07:29 PM

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Top Saudi officials head to Qatar in bid to heal rift

Three Saudi princes, including Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, fly to Qatar as part of diplomatic push

Top Saudi officials head to Qatar in bid to heal rift
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal is part of the diplomatic mission to Qatar. (AFP/Getty Images)

Three Saudi princes including Foreign
Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal visited Qatar on Wednesday, state media said,
amid efforts to repair a rift within the US-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.

There is growing concern in the Gulf over an increasing threat
from the IS, a splinter group of al Qaeda. The jihadist IS has
captured swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, next door to
some conservative Gulf states.

The Saudi 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 organisation by Saudi
Arabia.

Qatar has given a home to Youssef al-Qaradawi, a prominent
cleric associated with the Brotherhood, and Doha-based Al Jazeera news channel
is accused by other Gulf states of promoting the Islamist group, which it
denies.

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.

"Qatar ... became a house and headquarters of the
Muslim Brotherhood, which has been (regarded) everywhere in the Arab world as a
terrorist group," said Abdullah al-Askar, head of the foreign affairs
committee in Saudi Arabia's appointed Shoura Council, which advises the Riyadh
government on policy.

Kuwait's al-Watan newspaper quoted Gulf diplomatic sources
as saying that move to resolve the dispute were "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 meddling 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 GCC agreed on ways to implement a security
agreement they reached last year, which Riyadh, Manama and Abu Dhabi had
accused Doha of flouting.

Askar, who stressed that he was speaking in a personal
capacity, said that if the three states did not accept that Qatar had fulfilled
its part of the security agreement, they would consider further action.

But he added that this would almost certainly not extend to
expelling Doha from the GCC, both because no such sanction exists in the body's
own charter, and because it would risk deeper, damaging splits between Gulf
Arab states.