Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz held a surprise meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday to discuss the Israeli war on Gaza, as well as Gulf relations.
The visit marks the first high-level contact between Sheikh Tamim and King Abdullah since Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, withdrew their ambassadors in March to protest Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.
The Qatari emir's visit to Jeddah comes amid international efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions.
Sheikh Tamim’s visit marks his second meeting with a Gulf official since the beginning of the Israeli offensive on Gaza. The Qatari emir held a meeting in Doha on Monday with Oman's foreign minister amid suggestions that some members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were considering suspending Qatar's membership, reported AP.
The meeting brought together two influential Arab brokers backing different ceasefire initiatives. Saudi Arabia is supporting the Egyptian ceasefire initiative that Israel accepted but Hamas rejected. Qatar, on the other hand, is the main conduit of Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire that include guarantees for the lifting of a seven-year blockade of Gaza, enforced by Israel and Egypt.
Egypt officials suspect Qatar, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, encouraged Hamas to reject the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, reported Reuters. Doha, however, said it did not influence the decision.
A Saudi source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the king plans to tell the emir to have all mediation efforts done through Egypt. "Dealing with issues related to the Palestinians has always, and will always be, Egypt's historical role; Qatar will be told to stay out," said the source.
Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres described Qatar as the “world's largest financer of terrorism” during a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, currently in Israel leading international efforts to secure a ceasefire, as reported by Israeli media.
He added that Qatar does not have the right to finance missiles that "hooligans [Hamas]" direct towards "innocent civilians".
The offensive on Gaza has left 649 Palestinians killed so far, many of them children and civilians, including a seven-year-old hit by a shell early on Wednesday in southern Gaza, a medic has said.
Of the 31 Israelis killed, 29 were soldiers.