Middle East

Qatar emir tours Gulf states in support of union

Saudi Press Agency shows the new Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L) meeting King Abdullah in Mecca on August 2, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SPA)

DOHA: Qatar's new emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, concluded on Thursday a three-day tour of Gulf nations in which he stressed his support for a regional union.

"This was basically a friendly tour, although it also carried a clear political message expressing the emir's support to the Gulf union initiative presented by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia," a Qatari official told AFP.

"The emir was keen to visit Gulf countries first, to emphasise the strong relations between the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council," the official said, requesting anonymity.

Sheikh Tamim visited Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates this week. He had visited Saudi Arabia in August, shortly after ascending the throne following the June abdication of his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Ties between Qatar and other Gulf nations -- mainly Saudi Arabia -- have been strained in the wake of the Arab Spring, notably in Syria and more recently in Egypt, as each county seeks to extend its regional influence.

The gas-rich emirate had sought to play a major diplomatic role across the region under the leadership of former prime minister and his foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani.

But the country appears to have taken a back seat in regional affairs following the abdication, as Saudi Arabia has reasserted its leadership.

In 2011, King Abdullah proposed that the GCC, which was formed in 1981, should move forward to become a union. The details of the proposal have yet to be worked out.





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