UAE’s top prince in Saudi Arabia for talks with crown prince

In this handout photograph from the United Arab Emirates' state-run WAM news agency, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, left, meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, July 19, 2021. The meeting follows weeks of speculation about the growing rift between the two leaders as their nations compete for business, regional investments and prominence. (Rashed Al Mansoori/UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs/WAM via AP)
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Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince visited Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday following weeks of speculation about the growing rift between the two leaders. It came as their nations compete for business, regional investments and prominence.

The meeting between Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, 60, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 35, also came a day after their energy ministers announced a compromise on oil production quotas that had been preceded by rare public commentary between the OPEC allies.

Both princes, whose nations sit on vast reserves of oil, are seen as de-facto leaders of their respective countries. They oversee their country’s armed forces and wield control over intelligence and foreign policy.

Their meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, was attended by a tight circle of three top officials from each side. The state-owned Saudi Press Agency reported few details about the meeting, describing it as a discussion on the “deep-rooted fraternal relations between the two countries” and “the latest regional and international developments.”

The news agency reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally welcomed Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed upon his arrival to Riyadh.

The two princes once shared a brotherly like bond, reportedly spending time on hunting trips in the desert as Abu Dhabi’s crown prince mentored Saudi Arabia’s ambitious and brazen heir to the throne. Prince Mohammed worked to model aspects of the kingdom’s transformation on the successes of the United Arab Emirates.

So close were the two de-facto leaders that Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched into a war in Yemen and cut ties with neighboring Qatar together. In late 2017, the two nations announced a new partnership to coordinate in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields.

In more recent years, however, increasing political differences emerged, particularly with regard to the fighting in Yemen and relations with Qatar. This has prompted some analysts to speculate of behind-the-scenes tensions between the two powerful princes.

But on Monday, the UAE’s state-run news agency said the meeting in Riyadh explored ways “for enhancing the flourishing relations and strategic cooperation” between the two countries.