As part of Qatar’s intensified efforts to rebuild ties with other nations in the region, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani met with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss security and diplomatic ties.
The top Saudi and Qatari diplomats discussed “joint cooperation, and ways to support and strengthen them [relations] to serve the interests of the two countries,” according to Al Arabiya,
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar after accusations that the Qatari regime supports terrorism in the Middle East region against its Arab neighbors. At the time, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had reportedly expressed support for Iran, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood – three Middle Eastern Islamist players widely seen as regional troublemakers engaged in terrorism. Qatar has denied the charge that it supports terrorism.
In January 2021, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries decided to restore diplomatic relations with Qatar, effectively ending a serious diplomatic crisis that lasted for more than three years.
At the time, Farhan stressed that restored ties would benefit regional security.
“All the outstanding [issues], whether returning of diplomatic relations, flights, will go back to normal. It’s a very important breakthrough that we believe will contribute very much to the security of all our nations in the region,” he told reporters.
The bilateral talks between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were preceded by Qatar’s recent talks with the United Arab Emirates as a follow-up to the AlUla Declaration that formally ended the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors. The Qatari-UAE meeting reportedly went well and the two reconciling nations discussed “joint mechanisms and procedures for implementing the Al-Ula statement, and stressed the importance of consolidating relations between the two countries….”
Qatar’s support of Iran and criticism of Washington also led to strained diplomatic relations with the United States. In a further effort to thaw its political isolation, al-Thani also met with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Friday at the Munich conference.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price described the meeting in positive terms.
“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met in Munich today with Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani. Secretary Blinken and the Foreign Minister discussed tensions in Ukraine and the pressing need for Russia to deescalate the situation. The Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister for Qatar’s generosity and continued willingness to partner in our efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan,” Price said.
In early February, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that Qatar would be elevated to major non-NATO ally status. This designation is usually reserved for non-NATO states that are considered particularly important for American global interests.
“Qatar is a good friend and reliable and capable partner. And I’m notifying Congress that I will designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally to reflect the importance of our relationship,” Biden said. “I think it’s long overdue.”
Unlike the UAE, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain, which all normalized their ties with Israel in 2020, Qatar has indicated that it is in no hurry to establish relations with Israel. However, in November 2021, Qatar and Israel signed a historic commercial agreement linked to Qatar’s ambition to establish itself as an important player in the global diamond industry.
Qatar’s diplomatic offensive is part of the country’s wider effort to present itself as a force of moderation. In November, Qatar will be hosting the World Cup in soccer, a decision that has been widely criticized internationally due to Qatar’s poor human rights record.