The Gulf Cooperation Council opened its annual meeting Tuesday in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, without Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in attendance, despite speculation that he might participate. Talk of his rumored participation was seen as a sign that deeply strained relations between Qatar and the other GCC countries were on the mend. Rather than appearing at the conference himself, the emir sent his country’s prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani. The GC comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. In mid-2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with and blockaded Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and maintaining close ties with Iran, a perceived threat to the region.