Bahrain's prime minister calls Qatari emir, marking first conversation in two years

Manama's state news agency said the conversation focused on social issues only

epa07219613 A handout photo made available by the Saudi Royal Court shows a general view of the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) annual summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 09 December 2018. The one-day annual GCC summit gathers leaders from the six member states (Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) is expected to discuss security and unity of its nations, amid 18 month of falling between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and UAE from one side, and Qatar from another side after the formers cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar in June 2017. Qatar will be represented by Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi, the country's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs after Saudi King Salman invited Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to attend the summit.  EPA/BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI ROYAL COURT HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Bahrain’s prime minister called the Emir of Qatar on Monday to congratulate him on the start of Ramadan, marking the first contact between a senior official in Manama and the Qatari leadership since a boycott began almost two years ago.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency downplayed the significance of the conversation, saying the call between Prime Minister Khalifa Al Khalifa and Qatari Emir Tamim Al Thani was "restricted to exchanging congratulations on the advent of the holy month of Ramadan".

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing the gas-rich nation of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the accusations.

Bahrain’s cabinet affairs minister said late on Monday the call "does not represent the official position of the Kingdom of Bahrain and will not affect its commitments with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt on the implementation of what Qatar has committed to in 2013 and 2014 and the just demands that had followed," Bahrain's News Agency reported.

In 2013, Bahrain, Qatar and other GCC allies drafted the Riyadh Agreement. This contained commitments for signatories not to support terrorism or interfere in the internal affairs of other Gulf states. The document was ratified by all participants a year later.

Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have supported the country's economy. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE recently pledged $10 billion (Dh36.72bn) in financial support for major reforms to kick-start Bahrain's economy.

When the country was rocked by protests in 2011, Saudi Arabia sent military forces to support its government.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced that it opened an online portal to allow Qataris to register for Umrah or Hajj visits this year.

Although banning Qataris from entering the country, Saudi Arabia fulfilled its commitment to the Muslim world by providing Qataris with permission during religious visits to the kingdom's holy sites.

Last year, Saudi Arabia also provided government services to Qataris traveling to Makkah and Madinah to exercise their right as Muslims to perform the pilgrimage.

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