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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Qatar refuses to normalise with Israel while occupation remains: FM

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The Qatari diplomat expressed his country’s willingness to facilitate talks between the US and Iran.

Qatar will continue to refuse normalisation with Israel as long as it continues to occupy Palestine, a senior official said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said steps to move toward normalising relations with the occupying state remains “unlikely”.

“We see from our point of view in Qatar, which I can comment on, that the main reason for the lack of a relationship between us and Israel is the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the reason is still there, still valid, and there is no step or any hope toward peace yet,” the foreign minister told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.

Sheikh Mohammed noted that establishing ties with Israel will not put an end to the ongoing occupation of Palestine.

Commenting on Israel’s request for $1 billion in military aid from the US, the Qatari diplomat said what led to the escalations in Gaza was Israel’s own actions, including the forced dispossession of Palestinian homes and land as well as provocations at the Al-Aqsa mosque.

His comments also come weeks after the Qatar and Egypt-brokered ceasefire, which ended the 11-day Israeli bombardment of the city. The foreign minister echoed previous statements regarding the “temporary” ceasefire, stressing the need to address other issues that are constantly faced by Palestinians, such as the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

“We believe that any behaviour that will reflect new settlements, like settler society activities which led to the eviction of Sheikh Jarrah, will not help and will be counterproductive. It will keep us in these circles, one day you have violence, another you have a ceasefire,” he told Gamble.

While Qatar did open a trade mission for exchanges between Doha and Tel Aviv in the 1990’s after “hopeful” Madrid-Oslo negotiations, this was shut down in 2008 following the war on Gaza, where at least 1,440 Palestinians were killed, he said.

“We decided after that to close the offices because we believe that what we have done has not contributed anything to peace,” he said.

Read also: Palestinians are ‘not only Hamas’, Qatar FM says

Despite restoring ties with its Gulf neighbours and Egypt, Qatar has repeatedly refused to join the UAE and Bahrain in signing the Abraham Accords, saying that it remains a sovereign decision,

“It’s not really about a country on its own having a relationship with Israel because that’s not a solution to the entire conflict, but I think we have to address the conflict first; at least for us from our point of view in Qatar, then we take the step to have the peace with Israelis,” he said.

When asked about rising concerns over the election of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a vocal supporter of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the foreign minister said he cannot make any comments on the matter just yet.

“We cannot comment on something that is not known yet. There is a coalition that we have heard about that will form the new government, but it has not taken the oath yet, and no one knows what will happen in the next few days and whether there will be changes in conditions there,” he said.

“I think we need a government that leads a process towards achieving peace by recognising the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” added the FM.

On Iran

Meanwhile, Doha has started calling for dialogue between Iran and the rest of the region since the GCC reconciliation earlier this year. As a key regional mediator, it has also repeatedly expressed its support for Iran-US mediation as well as the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal.

“About Iran and the United States, it is in our interest not only in Qatar, but also in the Gulf Cooperation Council states that there be an agreement between them, that there is an agreement that also stops the nuclear race that is taking place in our region, and it is in our interest not to see any escalation between the US And Iran,” he said.

Read also: Nuclear deal agreement expected next week, EU envoy says

Qatar is willing to facilitate dialogue between the US and Iran upon request, the FM noted,

“Right now, we are just conveying the message for both parties to be more positive and more constructive in engaging with each other, and to reach a deal as soon as possible”.


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