A three-year blockade on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt has fractured the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC), but the group’s six leaders are working to strengthen it again, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia and its three Arab allies imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Qatar, accusing it, among other things, of supporting terrorist groups and of being too close to Iran, allegations that Doha has always denied.
The four countries agreed to restore full diplomatic and trade ties at a summit of GCC member states, including the other two members, Kuwait and Oman, in Saudi Arabia last year.
Speaking Wednesday at the World Security Forum held in Doha, Qatar’s top diplomat said it was necessary to find “the means for preventive diplomacy”.
“We have to find a way to prevent our countries from finding themselves again in such a crisis,” he said.
He added that Qatar sees Iran “as part of our region” and urged the GCC to engage with Tehran.
“Commitment [with Iran] is important to all of us as a GCC country, ”said Sheikh Mohammed. “Our goal is to reach a regional security agreement between the GCC and Iran.
“Iran is our neighbor, an actor in our region… we cannot change the geography. Our disagreements can be resolved around a table, they cannot be resolved by confrontation.
Speaking about Qatar’s possible role in restarting Iran’s nuclear talks with world powers, he said: “It is in our best interest to see the nuclear deal with Iran in place and to see that it doesn’t. There is no risk of a nuclear race in our region.
“We will provide all the necessary support to all parties. We are discussing and engaging with Iran, encouraging them and the United States to return to the agreement, ”the FM said.
“We managed to contain several explosion situations. Qatar will continue to play this role because it is in our national interest. Iran is our neighbor, we share borders, water, gas fields… we must see Iran flourish and be an active and positive actor in our region.
“Hiccups” in relations between Qatar and the United States
The Qatari official revealed that relations between Doha and Washington had experienced some “hiccups” during President Donald Trump’s tenure due to “certain personalities there and certain misunderstandings”, but added that relations have improved since then. .
“We have continued to develop our relations even during President Trump’s administration, even during the crisis,” he said, adding that Qatar was on the side of its allies during the recent evacuation crisis in Afghanistan. , because he helped with the logistics.
“When they are in need, we will step up,” he said. “Each country has its own foreign policy. We need to understand when sometimes the United States makes decisions that are not aligned with our policy. They also need to understand when we are making decisions that are not in their best interests. “
Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed once again declared that abandoning Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover would be a mistake “whoever runs the government”.
“We have been saying from the start that isolation will never be an answer and when we talk about engagement it is necessary with whoever rules Afghanistan because leaving Afghanistan will be a big mistake,” he said. .
After the fall of the previous government, Qatar hosted the first face-to-face talks between the United States and representatives of the Taliban earlier this week.
“Our goal is to find a way forward, because we cannot leave it as it is and we cannot just wait for action by the Taliban.
“I think the international community has a responsibility to lead these steps, to have a clear roadmap to deal with the situation there … the financial system is totally closed, the civil servants are not paid, the assets of the government were frozen without a way forward.
“From our point of view, it is very important to provide them with advice [the Taliban] … Reward every positive step they take and not just talk about penalizing negative ones. This will create an incentive for progress and the way forward. “
Sheikh Mohammed reiterated Qatar’s position that recognizing a Taliban government was not a priority, but engagement with other countries was important.
“The issue of recognition… it’s not a priority. We recognize countries, we do not recognize governments. As long as there is a country called Afghanistan and there are Afghans, we have to deal with this situation despite the government that is in power.