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Saudi, Qatari leaders hug ahead of summit

AL-ULA: Gulf Arab leaders arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a summit focused on ending a long-running dispute with Qatar which shattered Gulf unity.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was met in the historic city of al-Ula by de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two men, wearing face masks, embraced on the tarmac.

Ahead of the gathering, Kuwait announced that Saudi Arabia, which along with allies boycotted Doha in mid-2017, would reopen its airspace and borders to Qatar under a deal that a senior US official said would be signed in the presence of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Other Gulf leaders arrived earlier and a source said Egypt’s foreign minister would attend the annual summit, postponed from its December date as Riyadh worked for a deal.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and other Gulf countries severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar over allegations Doha supports “terrorism”, a charge it denies.

The breakthrough is the latest in a series of Middle East deals sought by Washington.

While Riyadh made clear it intended to lift the embargo, the other three states did not immediately comment on the issue. But the U.S. official said “it’s our expectation” they would also join. Under the emerging deal, Qatar will suspend lawsuits related to the boycott, the official said.

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