Qatar says keen to have ‘positive’ Iran ties amid row with neighbors
Qatar’s foreign minister has expressed his country’s willingness to have constructive relations with Iran after several Persian Gulf Arab countries cut their diplomatic ties with Doha.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani made the remarks in an interview with RT Arabic on Saturday during a visit to Moscow, where he sat down with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
“As far as our relations with Iran are concerned, everyone wants positive relations with Iran. Iran is a neighbor,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
The Qatari foreign minister said, “The strategic choice of all countries is to maintain dialog with Iran”, adding “we, in the state of Qatar, support these efforts.”
It came after the Qatari emir’s reported remarks on Iran’s stabilizing role in the region sparked a diplomatic storm with Saudi Arabia and its allies even though Doha later said its state media which published the statements had been hacked.
Iran sends planes of food to Qatar
On Sunday, Iran’s national carrier Iran Air said five planes of food had been sent to Qatar as the diplomatic crisis is hitting food imports into the small Persian Gulf state amid a Saudi-led blockade.
“So far five planes carrying perishable food items such as fruit and vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent today,” Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi told AFP.
He also noted that the deliveries will continue “as long as there is demand” from Doha.
It was not clear whether the deliveries were made in the form of exports or aid. Qatar is largely dependent on foodstuff imports to meet its needs, and thus vulnerable to the Saudi blockade.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates broke off relations with Qatar and suspended all land, air and sea traffic with the monarchy. In their apparent bid to secure US support and that of Israel, the four countries cited Qatar’s links with Hamas and accused it of supporting terrorism.
Hamas ‘a legitimate resistance movement’
The top Qatari diplomat also stressed that Arab nations consider Gaza-based Hamas a “legitimate resistance movement” and not a “terrorist organization as viewed by the US.”
Doha’s stance on Hamas is in line with those of other Persian Gulf states, Sheikh Mohammed said of the resistance movement which has an office in Qatar.
“Hamas’ presence in Qatar doesn’t mean there’s support for Hamas in Qatar …. Hamas’ presence is a political representation of the Hamas movement,” he said, adding, “We do not support Hamas, we support the Palestinian people.”
Earlier this week, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Qatar must end its alleged support for Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to restore ties with Persian Gulf Arab countries.
Sheikh Mohammed underlined the need for all disputes to be solved “through dialog and within the GCC only.”
He said the underlying reason for the latest developments “must not be too deep” as Doha’s ties with its Persian Gulf Arab rivals “were very friendly even two days prior to the escalation.”
There were meetings, consultations and summits in late May, “with no questions related to the current controversy”, he added.
Sheikh Mohammed said “an information campaign to demonize Qatar has started all of a sudden” by leveling “groundless and improvised” accusations against Qatar.
“If there are clear claims, they would have better been discussed at the table. Before taking any measures, Qatar should have been given a chance to answer the accusations,” he pointed out.
The Saudi-led campaign to isolate Qatar has escalated tensions and deeply divided the region. Turkey has sided with Qatar in the dispute and sent troops to the Persian Gulf country amid reports of a possible military action by Riyadh.
On Saturday, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifah paid a visit to Turkey but there was no immediate word on the purpose of the trip or the content of talks.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu quoted President Tayyip Erdogan as having told the top Qatari diplomat that the dispute with Doha should be resolved by the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Qatar has a history of diplomatic disputes with other Persian Gulf Arab countries. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Doha over what they said to be Qatar’s support for Muslim Brotherhood.