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Friday, February 26, 2021

Qatar Airways to continue flying to Iran despite ambassador’s recall

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Though Qatar has followed in the footsteps of most of its Gulf neighbors by recalling its ambassador to Tehran yesterday, the country does not appear to be completely cutting off ties to Iran, as Saudi Arabia has done.

For example, though the kingdom has stopped flights to and from Iran, Qatar’s national carrier has no plans to do the same.

Speaking to Doha News, a Qatar Airways spokesperson said that it had no information regarding the suspension of flights to and from the three Iranian cities the airline flies to, adding that travelers can still book tickets to Tehran, Mashhad and Shiraz online.

Meanwhile, an official at the Iranian Embassy in Qatar confirmed to Doha News that the ambassador remained in the country, though it is not clear whether this will continue to be the case.

Recalling ambassador

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled its ambassador to Tehran yesterday following attacks on two Saudi missions in Iran this week.

Protesters had broken into the embassy in Tehran and set it on fire because they were angry over the execution of Saudi Shia leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who had criticized the Gulf country’s ruling family and its treatment of Shia citizens.

Al-Nimr was among 47 people executed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday over terrorism-related charges.

Following the attacks, Saudi Arabia ended diplomatic ties with Iran and gave the Iranian diplomatic mission two days to leave Riyadh.

GCC
GCC

One day later, on Monday, Qatar joined several other GCC countries in formally condemning the attacks.

Yesterday, MOFA also handed a note of protest to Iran’s embassy in Qatar regarding the incidents.

Other Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have also recalled their ambassadors, while Bahrain announced it was ending all diplomatic relations with Iran.

Non-Gulf states such as Sudan and Djibouti have also cut ties with Iran.

‘Balancing act’

Speaking to Doha News, Michael Stephens, director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar, said Qatar’s move was expected as it had to follow the GCC consensus.

He previously said that the souring of relations between Saudi and Iran puts Doha in a tricky position, given its “intimate” relationship with the kingdom and its business ties to Tehran.

He explained that Qatar’s critical national interests are intertwined with Iran in the form of the shared North Dome/South Pars gas field and shared maritime boundaries, adding that Qatar would “need to openly support its GCC ally, whilst ensuring that its business relationships with Iran are not permanently harmed. It is a precarious balancing act.”

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