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
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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


Israel to attend US Mideast peace conference: minister

Updated 1 min 54 sec ago
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Israel to attend US Mideast peace conference: minister

JERUSALEM: Israel will attend an upcoming conference on the economic aspects of Washington’s peace plan aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Israel Katz has said.
“Israel will be represented at the Bahrain economic workshop in a way that will be decided later on,” Katz wrote on Twitter late Sunday.
“Israel has the ability to contribute to the development of the region with technology, innovation and other ways,” he added.
Asked by AFP to elaborate, a foreign ministry official did not say whether Israel would be represented by government officials or business leaders.
The June 25 and 26 gathering will see the unveiling of the economic aspects of the US initiative spearheaded by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The idea is to woo the Palestinians with the economic benefits if they accept the United State’s political proposals, which will be detailed at a later date yet to be announced.
Trump’s Middle East envoy hinted Sunday that it would not be before November.
The Palestinians have already rejected the plan, which they believe will be partial to Israel, and they are boycotting the Bahrain workshop.
The White House said last week that Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have agreed to attend, but none of the three countries have yet confirmed their participation.
The United Nations announced it would send its deputy Middle East coordinator to the event.
Relations soured between Washington and the Palestinians after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017.
Trump is attempting to forge a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, a task at which all who have tried before him have failed.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the plan may be considered unworkable, in comments to a private meeting of Jewish leaders leaked to US media.
“It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me’,” The Washington Post reported, citing an audio recording of the meeting it had obtained.