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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Iran’s FM to visit Qatar, Iraq on Sunday

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The visit comes amid indirect talks between Washington and Tehran in Vienna in efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is expected to visit Qatar and Iraq on Sunday and is expected to meet several officials in the Gulf state, Tehran’s foreign ministry announced.

According to Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, Zarif’s visit will be “in the framework of developing bilateral ties [and] regional and trans-regional talks”.

The meetings come amid indirect talks between the US and Iran in Vienna that hopes to restore the dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA]. So far, the talks have seen signs of progress despite regional tensions triggered by an attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

In February, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Doha will “spare no efforts” in ensuring that Tehran returns to the 2015 accord during senior-level meetings in Iran.

“We hope that with the return of the US to the nuclear deal as soon as possible, challenges and sanctions can be alleviated within the framework of the deal, and Qatar will not spare any efforts to make that happen,” Al Thani said during the first high-level talks in Tehran in February.

Read also: Qatar to ‘spare no efforts’ to help revive US-Iran nuclear deal

Last year, Qatar played a pivotal role as a key mediator in tensions between the US and Iran following the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, which placed the region at the edge of military escalation.

Zarif’s visit also comes following a Financial Times report that said a meeting, reportedly brokered by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, was held on April 9th in Iraq where Saudi Arabia and Iran allegedly discussed the restoration of their ties.

Shortly after the announcement, Iran’s foreign ministry issued a statement to denounce “contradictory accounts” in the media.

“These news agencies have a long history of publishing rumours,” Khatibzadeh said at the time, though he confirmed Iran has “always welcomed” dialogue with Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi government official confirmed the meeting to AFP and a Western diplomat told the agency that he was “briefed in advance that talks would happen” with the “purpose to help broker a better relationship between Iran and Saudi and decrease tensions”.

Speaking to Reuters, a Middle East official said “the April meeting was a very constructive meeting during which many issues, mainly the Yemen crisis, and Iran’s nuclear deal were discussed.”

The Reuters report also said Saudi and Iranian officials are expected to hold further direct talks this month to discuss top regional issues, chief of which is Yemen.

Throughout the years-long feud between the two countries, Qatar has maintained cordial relations with the Islamic Republic. This was one of the main points of contention for the 2017 Gulf crisis, which saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt impose a blockade on Qatar.

Since the signing the historic Al-Ula accord on January 5th this year – which triggered the return of diplomatic ties between Qatar and the former blockading quartet – Doha has offered to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran.

“[W]e have consistently emphasised, the solution to our challenges lies in collaboration to jointly form a ‘strong region’: peaceful, stable, prosperous & free from global or regional hegemony,” Zarif said in a statement in January, responding to Qatar’s calls for inclusive regional dialogue.


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