Gulf crisis in focus as Sweden and Qatar meet
During a visit to Stockholm, Qatar's foreign minister welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision to reopen its land border with Qatar to Muslim pilgrims, but he also called the move "political".
Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström met with her Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, in Stockholm today. Wallström said Qatar is a "priority country" for Sweden in terms of trade and investment. However, the main focus of the two foreign ministers' meeting was recent developments in the Middle East, particularly the Gulf crisis.
"Sweden and the EU urge the parties to diplomatically resolve the outstanding issues in a swift manner and we support the ongoing mediation efforts, including by Kuwait, and of course also the humanitarian aspect of the ongoing blockade,” Wallström said.
Earlier this summer, the Gulf was hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.
In Stockholm, Al-Thani said Qatar is committed to solving the crisis through diplomatic means. And he welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision earlier on Thursday to reopen the land border with Qatar in order to facilitate the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The Saudis’ move is seen as one of the first signs of a thaw in the diplomatic crisis, but Al Thani also called it "politically motivated".
“Despite the fact that it's been politically motivated to ban the Qatari people from Hajj and politically motivated to allow them, we are welcoming such a step, which is a step forward to get rid of this blockade which is imposed against my country,” Al-Thani said.
Last month, Al-Thani called on the United Nations to help resolve the crisis in the Gulf. He said the General Assembly and the Security Council, where Sweden is a non-permanent member, can play key roles.
Both Al-Thani and Wallström said that Qatar and Sweden are keen to develop bilateral relations. Sweden opened an embassy in Doha three years ago and Qatar recently opened an embassy in Stockholm.
Al-Thani said he hopes Wallström will visit Doha in the near future. “The level of relationship we have is in very good shape," he said, "but it is the desire of our leadership to develop this relationship more and more”.