May 7, 2019 / 8:00 AM / a month ago

Bahrain PM makes Ramadan call to Qatar Emir, a first since rift

FILE PHOTO: Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends an Arab League summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo

DOHA/DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain’s premier phoned Qatar’s Emir on Monday to mark the first day of Ramadan, Qatari media said, but Manama said the call, a rare exchange amid a lengthy dispute between Doha and some of its neighbors, signaled no change in political stance.

Bahrain along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

The call by Bahraini Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to exchange wishes on the first day of the holy month is a common tradition among Muslim countries.

It appeared to be the first publicly announced call by Bahrain to Qatar since the boycott, and a rare interaction between the feuding group of nations. In September 2017 Saudi Arabia called Qatar to discuss the crisis, but the next day said it had suspended dialogue with Doha.

“The call between HRH the Prime Minister and the Emir of Qatar does not represent the official position of the Kingdom of Bahrain and does not affect its commitment, alongside its sister countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, regarding (Qatar),” the official Bahrain News Agency quoted the minister of cabinet affairs as having said.

The Ramadan call came a week after Bahrain and Saudi Arabia sent delegates to a political forum in Doha, also a first since the rift.

Qatar’s foreign minister played down last week’s conference attendance, however, saying there was no sign of a thaw in the row.

Qatar’s state news agency did not provide further details of the Ramadan call.

Reporting by Eric Knecht and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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