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Top Saudi envoys in Qatar talks amid Brotherhood rift

© AFP/File | Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Kuwait City on March 25, 2014Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Kuwait City on March 25, 2014

High-ranking Saudi envoys held talks with the Qatari emir on Wednesday after months of strained relations over Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, intelligence chief Prince Khaled bin Bandar, and Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz met with Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha, the official Qatari News Agency said.

They discussed "brotherly relations between the two countries and means of strengthening and developing them" as well as cooperation between the six Gulf Arab states, it said.

They also discussed "matters of mutual interest, especially recent international and regional developments."

Relations between Qatar and fellow Gulf States plumbed a new low in March with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirate all withdrawing their ambassadors.

The visit by the Saudi envoys came ahead of a meeting of Gulf foreign ministers on Saturday at which the rift within the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council is expected to be high on the agenda.

Qatar's critics within the bloc have long been hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, fearful that its brand of grass-roots activism and political Islam could undermine their own authority.

The three governments all supported the Egyptian army's overthrow of the Brotherhood's elected president Mohamed Morsi in July last year and its subsequent bloody crackdown on his supporters.

Qatar gave several fugitive Brotherhood leaders refuge, while Saudi Arabia followed Egypt's move last December to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

The rift has been further highlighted in recent days by Washington's confirmation on Tuesday that UAE warplanes had this month twice bombed Islamist militia in Libya reportedly backed by Qatar.

The air raids failed to prevent the militia from seizing Tripoli airport from nationalist rivals who had held it since the overthrow of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The Saudi foreign minister warned in March that there could be no rapprochement with Qatar until it changes policy.

A short statement on the official Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday said that the delegation returned to the kingdom after a "brief brotherly visit to Qatar."

The Qatari emir made an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia last month for talks with King Abdullah on Gaza, where the Islamist de facto ruler Hamas was strongly backed by Doha in the deadly seven-week conflict with Israel that ended with a ceasefire on Tuesday.