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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Qatar’s FM meets Iran’s newly-elected leader Raisi in Tehran visit


Doha has continuously offered to mediate between Tehran and Washington, more recently in the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Qatar’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met with top Iranian officials during a visit to Tehran on Sunday, including the Islamic Republic’s newly-elected leader Ebrahim Raisi.

During the meeting, Raisi and Sheikh Mohammed discussed bilateral ties, with the newly-elected president noting that “Tehran has a special interest in relations with Doha” and that its relations with its neighbours is a priority for the new government’s foreign policy.

This was echoed by Sheikh Mohammed who said “Qatar seeks cooperation to strengthen bilateral relations and efforts to ensure regional security in coordination with the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Qatar’s foreign minister also met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the same day.

Sheikh Mohammed’s visit to Iran follows a trip to Washington where he met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The FM stressed the importance of having “an open and transparent dialogue between GCC countries and Iran, to achieve stability in the region,”  according to Al Jazeera.

After the signing of the Al Ula declaration on 5 January this year, Qatar swiftly expressed its readiness to mediate between Iran and its regional rivals – the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

In February, Sheikh Mohammed visited the Islamic Republic where he said Doha will “spare no efforts” in mediating between the US and Iran, calling for a swift return to the nuclear deal.

An Uphill Task: Qatar’s mediation ambitions between the US and Iran

Last month, Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lolwah Al-Khater revealed that Doha has attempted to act as a mediator between the US and Iran as well as Tehran and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC].

“We tried to act as a mediator between Iran and the United States and at some point there was a discussion about Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council. We are always ready to contribute to this process,” said Al-Khater in June, noting that mediation takes place from time to time.

Qatar is a strategic ally to the US and enjoys good relations with Iran. Doha’s efforts helped maintain regional stability at the end of 2019 and early 2020 during an attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad as well as the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

“At this time, the region was on the brink of war. Qatar worked hard with both sides to reduce tensions, and there were several other countries with similar interests. Including Iraq, which is located in the middle between the two forces,” said Al-Khater.

According to a report published by Iran’s Etemad newspaper on Friday, as quoted by Bloomberg, there will soon be an announcement regarding the formal re-establishment of ties between Tehran and Riyadh.

Meanwhile, Vienna talks kicked off in April this year in an attempt to revive the nuclear deal between the US and Iran in the presence of members of the 2015 accord, known as the p4+1 – France, Britain, Germany and Russia.

While progress was visible during the meetings, with the US and Iran showing up to the negotiating table, there has been no tangible progress to lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic or restore the JCPOA.

Iran also confirmed that the talks will not resume until Raisi takes office in August.

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