Qatar PM to make rare trip to Saudi Arabia for emergency summit

Qatar's Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani speaks during the U.S-Islamic World forum in Doha, Qatar June 1, 2015. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar’s prime minister will attend an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, the highest level Qatari official to visit the kingdom during a diplomatic rift.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that Doha supports terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.

The emergency summit in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, on Thursday will discuss tensions with Iran following attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and drone strikes on oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia, both of which Tehran denies involvement in.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had received an invitation from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud earlier this week to attend both the summit of Gulf Arab rulers and a wider meeting of Arab leaders.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Lolwah Al-Khater said in a tweet that Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani would attend the summits, writing that the region’s quickly escalating tensions made high-level participation a “national and humanitarian duty to achieve collective security”.

The United States has been trying to unify the Gulf bloc in order to confront Iran, although it was not immediately clear whether the visit was a sign of a thaw in the two-year dispute.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday that naval mines “almost certainly from Iran” were used to attack the tankers, and warned Tehran against conducting new operations.

Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Alison Williams