Qatar says Gulf states and Iran should seek format for ‘dialogue’

Despite de-escalation moves, Saudi Arabia is treading cautiously.
Friday 07/05/2021
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks during a press conference  in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March. 24, 2021. (AP)
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March. 24, 2021.(AP)

DOHA--Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said on Thursday that Gulf Arab states and Iran need to agree on a format to address concerns and ease regional tensions.

Sheikh Mohammed also welcomed steps by Doha’s ally, Turkey, to mend ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt and urged the two Arab states to continue to engage with Ankara.

“The region needs to feel some stability and needs to have all the players in the region coming along together and to have dialogue to calm down all these tensions,” he told Reuters.

“The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) needs to sit with Iran and agree on a regional format among us to address the concerns of the GCC and any concerns that Iran has as well,” he said.

Saudi Arabia opposes Iran’s policy of regional expansion through proxies and its support for Houthi allies in Yemen.

Saudi and Iranian officials are said to have held talks last month in Iraq aimed at discussing the war in Yemen and easing tensions as the United States and Tehran try to revive a 2015 nuclear accord that Washington quit in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump, who reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Saudi Arabia had opposed the nuclear pact between global powers and Iran for not addressing Tehran’s missile programme and regional behaviour.  It has sought a place at any negotiating table to address such issues. Its request has been consistently rebuffed by Tehran.

Qatar enjoys good ties with Iran as well as Turkey, among factors that had led Riyadh and its Arab allies to cut all ties with Doha in 2017. Turkey still keeps a military base and hundreds of troops in Qatar. Its military presence in the neighbouring Gulf nation is not seen favourably by Saudi Arabia.

In January, Saudi Arabia announced a deal between the four nations, which also include Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, to end the row with Qatar. Despite steps towards reconciliation, Riyadh is seen as treading cautiously

Turkey’s foreign minister is expected to visit Saudi Arabia for talks next week. The trip will follow Turkey’s talks this week with Egypt also aimed at normalising ties.

“I am sure if all those players are going to come together this will have a significant impact on regional stability,” the Qatari minister said.