In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut off ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on the Gulf state.

The quartet accuses Doha of supporting “terrorism” and proscribed opposition political movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has repeatedly rejected the accusations as baseless.

Some observers interpreted the invitation to Qatar’s leaders as meaning the Saudi-led blockading countries may be backing down from their accusations against Doha.

But others said that remains to be seen.

“I think it is too early to tell whether the decision to send the prime minister to the summits in Saudi Arabia signals a rapprochement of sorts in the Gulf blockade,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Baker Institute fellow for the Middle East, told Al Jazeera.

But he added Prime Minister Abdullah’s presence in Mecca could serve “as a confidence-building measure that can alleviate strains with Saudi Arabia”.

The blockade coincided with the rise to power of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Qatar has pushed an independent foreign policy, while Saudi and the UAE have their own plans for the region.

Qatar has strengthened security relations with the US and Turkey and expanded diplomaticand trade ties with new partners and existing ones since the land, sea, and air embargo was imposed on June 5, 2017.

While the blockade has caused economic pain, the Gulf nation’s currency has preserved its value since the start of the rift and the economy has diversified to overcome the impact of the sanctions. Exports have grown about 20 percent and Doha has dramatically reduced budgetary spending.

The top liquefied natural gas exporter in the world, Qatar has continued to develop its vital oil-and-gas sector without any major issues.

Ayomide Oyewole

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