Qatar admits having different ‘assessment’ to US on Iran threat

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Qatar respected US policy on Iran, but added: “We have our own assessment.” (AFP/File photo)
Updated 10 June 2019

Qatar admits having different ‘assessment’ to US on Iran threat

  • Comments expected to alarm members of the Trump administration, which has beefed up America’s military presence against Tehran
  • Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani

LONDON: Qatar has its "own assessment” different to the US on policy towards Iran, the country’s foreign minister said Sunday.

The comments are expected to alarm members of the Trump administration, which has beefed up America’s military presence in the region after an increased Iranian threat. 

Qatar hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East but has become increasingly close to Iran despite Washington viewing Tehran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.

Since withdrawing from the 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, President Donald Trump has ramped up sanctions and vowed to curb Tehran’s destabilizing activities in the region.

Speaking in London, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Qatar respected US policy on Iran, but added: “We have our own assessment.”

“There is a big pressure on Iran’s economy, but Iran lived under sanctions for 40 years. It’s never been like this but they survived. We don’t see the repetition of the same way will create a different result,” he said. “They don’t want to have a continuation of the sanctions at the same level and enter negotiations. They believe there was an agreement and US was part of the agreement.” 

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar and other countries have been talking to both Iran and the United States about de-escalation, urging both sides to meet and find a compromise.

“We believe that at one point there should an engagement – it cannot last forever like this,” he said. “Since they are not willing to engage in further escalation, they should come up with ideas that open the doors.”

Qatar’s close ties with Iran, along with its support of extremist groups, was one of the reasons Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf and Arab countries cut ties with Doha two years ago.

The comments from Qatar on a differing approach to Iran come after the US last month deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 long-range bombers to the region to tackle escalatory action by Iran.

The US has also said Iran was almost certainly behind an attack on four oil tankers, including two Saudi ships, off the coast of the UAE. 

Sheikh Mohammed also spoke about the Trump administration's impending Middle East peace deal, saying there was a disconnect between the Palestinians and the US over the blueprint.

"It cannot be a solution like, sort of, imposed on the Palestinians – no country in the Arab world can accept that," Sheikh Mohammed said, of the deal to end decades of confict with Israel.

*With Reuters


Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

Updated 50 min 7 sec ago

Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

  • 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea
  • It came days after Libyan navy patrols “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats

TRIPOLI: The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told AFP.
He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt.
It came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli,” Kacem added.
The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometers west of the capital.
According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.
One body was also recovered by the coast guard.
Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.
In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.
They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord.
On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.
Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organizations.