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Malaysia rolls out red carpet for embattled Qatar’s emir

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 2:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 2:32pm

Malaysia on Monday rolled out the red carpet for Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is on his first trip abroad since a diplomatic crisis erupted in June between his nation and four Arab countries.

Sheikh Tamim, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur late on Sunday, was given a 21-gun salute at a state welcoming ceremony in parliament. He also inspected a guard-of-honour during the ceremony attended by Malaysia’s king, Prime Minister Najib Razak and cabinet ministers.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar on June 5 because of its close ties with Iran and claims it supports extremist groups in the region – a charge denied by Doha. They also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the small country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.

The emir’s trip to Malaysia comes eight months after a visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the first by a Saudi king in more than a decade.

The Gulf crisis puts predominantly Muslim Malaysia in a tight spot as it is close to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Najib in July backed Kuwait’s effort to mediate the crisis and called for a swift solution.

“We pray that all differences among our Arab brothers will be settled amicably and that the unity and harmony of the [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries can be restored,” he said in a statement.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it was the first visit by a ruling Qatari emir since Sheikh Tamim’s father visited Malaysia in 2009.

It said the visit would provide an opportunity for the leaders to discuss bilateral issues and exchange views on topics of common interest.

Sheikh Tamim met Najib and Malaysia’s king and was expected to attend a state banquet at the palace before leaving late on Monday.

Qatar is Malaysia’s 40th largest trading partner, with total trade of US$566 million in 2016.