Qatar is ready to mediate between the United States and Iran, as US President Joe Biden takes over in the White House after the turbulent years of Donald Trump’s administration, according to Qatari deputy foreign minister Lolwah al-Khater.
In a virtual interview with Efe, al-Khater also said that Qatar is committed to engaging in a “constructive dialogue” between Tehran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
“Qatar has expressed its willingness to play such a role, yet we have to be invited by both parties, who are still hesitant to take this step, in terms of entering and engaging in direct negotiations,” said al-Khater.
Al-Khater highlighed the role her government has played in reducing regional tensions following the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Sulaymani by a US airstrike in Baghdad in early 2020.
“At that point, the region was on the verge of a military escalation. Qatar back then played the role of de-escalating the situation, and then, I think, saved the region from a potential war,” she added.
Doha maintains good relations with Washington and Tehran, although its close ties to the latter was one of the main reasons why its Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations almost four years ago until this month, when they agreed to lift the blockade and restore diplomatic relations.
“Iran is a geographical reality in our region and the Gulf states are a geographical reality, no one is going away, and that is why it is very important to engage in a meaningful, constructive and direct dialogue,” the Qatari deputy foreign minister explained.
“If it was important for the US to have a dialogue with Iran, then it is even more important for us as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to have a meaningful and constructive dialogue with Iran, one that will preserve the collective security of our region, the rights of our peoples and ensure a prosperous future for coming generations,” she added.
On January 5, the GCC member states (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman), signed the al-Ula agreement of reconciliation, along with Egypt, which followed in the footsteps of its Gulf allies in severing relations with Doha in 2017.
The deal freed Qatar from diplomatic isolation, as its air borders with the four countries are once again open, benefitting the entire region with “economic and political entity”, and a sense of “collective security,” al-Khater said.
“There have been no concessions from any side (…) the GCC crisis was a lose-lose situation for everyone, so ending this crisis, I think, will be a gain for everyone”, she insisted.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt accused Doha of sponsoring terrorism, as well as meddling in their affairs to destabilize them, an accusation that Qatar denied.
According to al-Khater, Doha has emerged stronger from the crisis, at least from an economic point of view, as in the past three and a half years it has “diversified its supply chains and reinforced its position as one of the largest energy exporters globally.”
“Looking back, the economic gains are significant,” she said, pointing out that Qatar’s GDP grew more than that of its neighbors during the blockade, when Doha strengthened its trade relations with Turkey, Iran and other countries in the area beyond the GCC.
“The blockade was a situation we did not choose, for sure, but we were able to live with it and sustain the situation. Ending the blockade is about the collective interest of our entire region, not only in Qatar’s interest,” she concluded. EFE-EPA