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UAE leader makes surprise visit to Qatar after boycott

The leader of the United Arab Emirates has made a surprise visit to Qatar as it is hosting the World Cup — his first since leading a years-long four-nation boycott of Doha over a political dispute that poisoned regional relations.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also serves as the ruler of Abu Dhabi, made the trip at the invitation of Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the state-run WAM news agency reported on Monday.

“The visit builds on the existing brotherly relations between the two nations and their people,” WAM said in its brief report.

Sheikh Mohammed was widely viewed by analysts as one of the main architects of the boycott of Qatar by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that began in 2017.

Qatar was accused that it supported terrorism, a charge it denies.

READ MORE: Qatar has ‘positive vision’ in UAE talks to patch up ties

End of boycott

The boycott, which saw the four nations shut off air and sea routes to Qatar, only ended in January 2021 just ahead of President Joe Biden taking office in the United States. 

The boycott began immediately after a visit to the region by then-President Donald Trump early in his presidency.

The opening ceremony of the World Cup, which coincided with Qatar facing Ecuador in the tournament’s first match, saw Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi attend. 

Dubai’s ruler also attended along with his son while Sheikh Mohammed did not attend. However, he called Sheikh Tamim the following day and “congratulated” Qatar on hosting the World Cup — something that would have been unthinkable at the height of the diplomatic crisis.

Three months since the Qatar blockade lifted, what’s changed?

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