The move is the latest twist in a nearly 3-month-old diplomatic row between Sunni countries in the Middle East. Among the complaints from Qatar's neighbors is Doha's cozy relationship with Shiite Iran.
Qatar's Foreign Ministry announced Thursday that it will restore full diplomatic ties with Iran, including the return of its ambassador to Tehran.
It's the latest twist in an intra-Sunni rift that has roiled the Middle East for nearly three months. In early June, Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, announced the severing of diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar over a number of issues, including Doha's comparatively close ties with Shiite Iran.
Qatar's move comes just days after Saudi Arabia began promoting a member of Qatari royalty whose branch of the family was toppled in a palace coup in 1972.
The re-establishment of ties with Iran seems all but certain to deepen the intra-Sunni diplomatic crisis, according to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
"Qatar has shown it is going to go in a different direction," he told the AP news agency. "It could very well be calculated toward reinforcing the point that Qatar will not bow to this regional pressure placed upon it."
Shortly after the diplomatic row had erupted, Saudi Arabia and its backers sent Qatar a list of 13 demands they sought in order to resume diplomatic ties. Among the demands were that Qatar shutter its international news organization, Al-Jazeera.
Qatar ignored the demands while the deadline to comply passed, leaving the two sides in an apparent stalemate.
Pilgrimage to Mecca
Riyadh announced that it would allow Qataris to make the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which all able-bodied Muslims are supposed to do at least once in their life. But that gesture of goodwill came with a twist.
Saudi Arabia's state media attributed Riyadh's decision, in part, to an intercession by a member of Qatar's royal family who is from a branch of the al-Thani monarchy that was ousted 45 years ago.
One prominent Saudi columnist said the meeting between Qatar's Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could lead to the start of a Qatari government-in-exile.
But Ulrichsen cautioned that so far, the Saudi moves appeared to be more needling than anything else.
"Given that a formal escalation in terms of sanctions is probably off the table for now, we're seeing this informal pressure on Qatar ... to try and perhaps stir the pot," he said. "I think the informal pressure is increasing because of the lack of formal alternative measures they can realistically hope to place on Qatar."
Qatar had withdrawn its ambassador to Iran in early 2016 in a show of solidarity with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies - all of whom withdrew their ambassadors from Tehran when Saudi diplomatic posts came under attack after Riyadh executed a prominent Shiite cleric.
bik/sms (AP, AFP)