Qatar voices readiness to mediate between Iran, U.S.

January 22, 2021 - 16:58

TEHRAN – Qatar is ready to mediate between Iran and the United States as the new U.S. president, Joe Biden, assumes office after the turbulent years of the Trump administrations, Lolwah al-Khater, spokeswoman for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, has said.

She also pointed out that Qatar is committed to engaging in a “constructive dialogue” between Tehran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

“Qatar has expressed its willingness to play such a role, yet we have to be invited by both parties, who are still hesitant to take this step, in terms of entering and engaging in direct negotiations,” al-Khater told the Spanish EFE news agency.

She stated that Iran and the Persian Gulf’s Arab states are both geographical realities in the region and that’s why they need to start a direct dialogue.

“Iran is a geographical reality in our region and the [Persian] Gulf states are a geographical reality, no one is going away, and that is why it is very important to engage in a meaningful, constructive and direct dialogue," the spokeswoman asserted.

She said a dialogue between Iran and its Arab neighbors is even more important than a dialogue between Iran and the U.S.

“If it was important for the U.S. to have a dialogue with Iran, then it is even more important for us as [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to have a meaningful and constructive dialogue with Iran, one that will preserve the collective security of our region, the rights of our peoples and ensure a prosperous future for coming generations,” she continued.

The Qatari official also pointed to Qatar’s trade ties with Iran and Turkey during the GCC crisis, saying that these ties helped Qatar in achieving a GDP growth more than that of its neighbors.

“Looking back, the economic gains are significant,” she said of the outcome of the crisis, pointing out that Qatar's GDP grew more than that of its neighbors during the blockade, when Doha strengthened its trade relations with Turkey, Iran and other countries in the area beyond the GCC.

The comments come a few weeks after Qatar mended ties with its Arab neighbors in a reconciliation deal brokered by the U.S. The deal put an end to a three-year-and-half dispute between Qatar and an Arab quartet of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. In June 2017, the Saudi-led quartet severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a total blockade on the tiny Persian Gulf nation. The four countries closed their airspace, land, and sea routes to Qatari planes, cars, and vessels, a move that prompted Qatar to use Iranian airspace. Kuwait, a country stuck in the middle of the dispute between its neighbors, had studiously worked to reconcile the opposing sides and succeeded in doing so in December.

On January 5, leaders of the GCC - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman- attended the al-Ula summit in Saudi Arabia in which they signed a reconciliation deal, putting an end to the years-long GCC crisis.

“There have been no concessions from any side (...) the GCC crisis was a lose-lose situation for everyone, so ending this crisis, I think, will be a gain for everyone”, al-Khater said of the deal.

According to al-Khater, Doha has emerged stronger from the crisis, at least from an economic point of view, as in the past three and a half years it has “diversified its supply chains and reinforced its position as one of the largest energy exporters globally.”

“The blockade was a situation we did not choose, for sure, but we were able to live with it and sustain the situation. Ending the blockade is about the collective interest of our entire region, not only in Qatar’s interest,” the spokeswoman insisted.

Al-Khater’s remarks came after Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called for dialogue between Iran and its Arab neighbors to resolve outstanding differences, expressing hope that the two sides would hold a summit to deescalate tensions.

“We are hopeful that this [summit] would happen and we still believe that this should happen. And I think this is also a desire that being shared among the other GCC countries. I just mentioned to you that there is a difference between the countries on the way how to approach such a dialogue. Also from the Iranian side. They have expressed their willingness several times to engage with the GCC countries,” he said in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV.

Bin Abdulrahman underlined that the time should come when the Persian Gulf’s Arab states will sit at the table with Iran and reach a common understanding. “We have to live with each other. We cannot change geography. Iran cannot move the GCC away from its neighborhood and the GCC cannot move Iran from the neighborhood,” he continued.

The chief Qatari diplomat also expressed readiness to facilitate dialogue between Iran and the GCC states or back anyone facilitating such a dialogue.

He also hoped that the much-anticipated talks between Iran and the U.S. on the 2015 nuclear deal –officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)- would help soothe tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbors.

Bin Abdulrahman expressed hope that what will happen between Iran and the U.S. on the JCPOA would contribute to resolving the differences between Iran and the GCC. “Of course, things are interconnected at the end of the day,” he noted, adding that Qatar will support negotiations between the stakeholders.

“We will be welcoming this idea. We maintain a good relationship with the U.S. and we maintain a good relationship with Iran,” bin Abdulrahman stated.

Iran welcomed the Qatari call for dialogue between Iran and the Persian Gulf’s Arab states, underlining that the solution to the region’s challenges lies in cooperation to form a strong region free from foreign interference.

“Iran welcomes my brother FM @MBA_AlThani's call for inclusive dialogue in our region. As we have consistently emphasized, the solution to our challenges lies in collaboration to jointly form a 'strong region': peaceful, stable, prosperous & free from global or regional hegemony,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet following the Qatari foreign minister’s call for dialogue.


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