Saudi Arabia, Qatar revive ties after row over al-Jazeera

Other News Materials 10 March 2008 14:22 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Qatar is rolling out the red carpet Monday for Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, which signals an end to five years of frosty relations caused by Riyadh's anger over coverage by the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera television.

On the eve of the landmark visit to Qatar, Sultan reiterated a friendly Saudi tone towards the small yet politically ambitious emirate, which also angered the Saudis by establishing ties with Israel and awarding the US its biggest military base in the area.

"Saudi-Qatari relations are governed by blood ties and a common destiny. They are not the product of a day, nor the result of emerging circumstances," Sultan told Qatar's al-Sharq newspaper.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia attended the summit of Gulf Arab leaders in the Qatari capital Doha in December, paving the way for full resumption of ties.

Saudi Arabia, a regional political and economic powerhouse, withdrew its ambassador to Doha in 2002 to protest at al-Jazeera's "negative" coverage of Saudi politics.

The channel - accused of hosting Saudi dissidents - incurred the anger of Riyadh's ruling elite, which banned it from reporting in Saudi Arabia and covering the annual haj pilgrimage.

Saudi princes own many private Arab satellite channels, but al- Jazeera is one of the few that remain outside the grip of Saudi control.

Saudi Arabia's media is among the most heavily censored in the Arab world.

Al-Jazeera has, however, toned down its critical coverage of Saudi Arabia - a development that many analysts say has been timed with visits of Qatari leaders to Riyadh last year.

In December, the channel regained Saudi permission to cover the haj.