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Saudi top diplomat meets Qatar emir in Doha: media

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat met Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in Doha on Monday, official media reported, as the countries heal following a bruising rift.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s visit came as a Qatari delegation arrived in Cairo to continue restoring diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Gulf monarchy fractured by years of discord, Egyptian media reported.

Saudi Arabia led a coalition of countries including Egypt to break off ties with Qatar in June 2017 over claims it was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamist groups, which Qatar has always denied.

But following Kuwaiti mediation, Qatar was invited to a regional meeting in Saudi Arabia in January at which Qatar was brought back into the regional fold and a process of reconciliation began.

Since then, Qatari officials have met in Kuwait with their opposite numbers from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to discuss how to move on from the spat.

“(The emir) received an oral message from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman… during the reception of Prince Farhan,” the state-run Qatar News Agency reported.

The Saudi foreign minister later met his Qatari counterpart and discussed bilateral relations, the agency added.

Egypt’s Al-Ahram daily reported Doha’s delegation was led by senior foreign ministry official Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani to “discuss cooperation between Egypt and Qatar”.

The visit is the latest sign of warming ties between the two countries after their respective foreign ministers met last week on the sidelines of an Arab League session in Cairo.

Although the thaw has been widely welcomed, there is mistrust towards the United Arab Emirates, the other major player in the boycott bloc, which was the staunchest critic of Doha and its leadership throughout the crisis.

Families were divided, students expelled, businesses broken and religious pilgrimages denied when Qatar’s rivals broke ties.

But since the reconciliation there have been cautious steps towards normality including the resumption of air travel between the former adversaries and the reopening of Qatar’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia.

In a sign of goodwill, Egyptian authorities released an Al Jazeera Arabic journalist from jail in February after more than four years of detention.

Egypt had been incensed with Doha-based Al Jazeera’s coverage in particular. Cairo has been critical of the pan-Arab network’s stance, labelling it a mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The group was outlawed in Egypt after general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the military overthrow of Islamist Mohamed Morsi in 2013.