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Iran’s Zarif to visit Qatar amid Gulf crisis

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (AP)
MUSCAT: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Qatar on Monday, officials said, for talks on relations between Tehran and Doha that have caused tensions in the Gulf.
Zarif held talks with officials in Oman Monday before heading to Doha on his first visit to Qatar since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June.
The four countries accuse Qatar of backing extremism and fostering ties with their Shiite rival Iran, charges that Doha denies.
Oman, a tiny sultanate across the water from Iran, has traditionally had closer ties with Tehran than its neighbors and has maintained relations with Qatar throughout the crisis.
Zarif’s talks in Muscat covered “energy, the economy and transit” and the potential “transfer of Iranian gas through the Sultanate of Oman to India,” according to the official Oman News Agency.
Oman and Iran in 2014 agreed to build an underwater pipeline to pump Iranian gas to the Omani port city of Sohar.
Zarif is due to meet Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told AFP talks would focus on relations in the Gulf, economic cooperation and the latest developments in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Speaking in Paris last week, the Qatari foreign minister said moves by Qatar’s rivals, including the cutting of trade and transport links, were actually pushing Doha into closer ties with Tehran.
“They accuse Qatar of being close to Iran but with their measure... they push Qatar toward Iran. They are giving Qatar like a gift to Iran,” he said.
Qatar said in August it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran. Doha along with other Sunni Arab Gulf states had pulled its ambassador from Tehran in January 2016 following attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

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