(Reuters) - Qatar’s emir told Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah this week his country had done everything it could to resolve a dispute over Doha’s links with Islamist groups, but the monarch appeared unconvinced, a Gulf security source said on Tuesday.
The source said Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani flew to Jeddah on Monday for two hours of talks on the dispute in the U.S.-allied Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an unusual schism among the Arab world’s wealthiest countries that has ramifications across the Middle East.
Saudi authorities did not appear to be completely convinced by the young emir’s comments, said the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic. He did not elaborate.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recalled their ambassadors to Qatar in March, accusing Doha of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.
The dispute centres on the role of Islamist groups, and in particular Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, in the GCC and the wider region.
Gulf officials say the three countries, who along with Kuwait, Oman and Qatar make up the GCC, want Doha to end all financial and political support for the Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organisation by Saudi Arabia.
“In the meeting, Tamim basically wanted to tell the King that Qatar has met all the conditions that the King asked for and this should be enough to bring a formal end to the rift,” said the Jeddah-based source.
“The emir had also promised the king that he would keep him informed about Qatar’s foreign policy in an effort to increase transparency, which he has honored to some degree,” he said.
The Saudi leadership remains unconvinced that Qatar has stopped financing what it sees as terrorist groups in the region, which also include militant groups in Syria such as the al-Nusra Front, the source said.
“There is progress to be recognized, but more still needs to be done. Financing terror is still an issue for Qatar,” said the source.
Qatar has given a home to Youssef al-Qaradawi, a prominent cleric associated with the Brotherhood, and Doha-based Al Jazeera news channel is accused by some Gulf states of promoting the Islamist group, which it denies.
The Gulf Arab state denies it funds terrorism and points out that both it and Saudi Arabia have provided support to a range of armed groups fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al Assad, whose rule both Doha and Riyadh seek to end.
Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said in August that Qatar does not support extremist groups in any way, singling out Islamic State for condemnation. “We are repelled by their views, their violent methods and their ambitions,” he said.
Qatar in September asked seven senior Brotherhood figures to leave the country, following months of pressure from neighbours to stop backing the Islamists.
But Ibrahim Munir, a senior Brotherhood official based in London, told Reuters at the time that the departures did not mean a rupture in ties between Qatar and the Brotherhood.
The emir met King Abdullah with a delegation that included Qatar’s Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the security source said.
Saudi Arabia is also concerned about Qatar’s role in the freeing of hostages, the source said.
In Syria, Qatar has mediated the release of foreign and Syrian captives on several occasions in the course of Syria’s three-year-old civil war.
Qatari officials deny paying ransom for hostages, but Western diplomatic sources in Doha say otherwise. Payment for captives is discouraged by Saudi Arabia.
“Yes, Qatar does have good networking relations with groups like Nusra,” a Western diplomat told Reuters.
“That doesn’t stop some form of direct or indirect payments to be made to these groups, which only encourages them to kidnap more people.”
Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall