Qatar’s top diplomat flies to Iran days after talks in US

Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks at a signing ceremony of the US-Taliban agreement in the Qatari capital Doha on Feb. 29, 2020. (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images) (TNS)
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Golnar Motevalli Bloomberg News (TNS)

Qatar’s top diplomat flies to Iran days after talks in USQatar’s foreign minister traveled to Iran for unpublicized talks, having earlier offered to broker dialogue between the Islamic Republic and its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf, including regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met on Sunday with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, just days after meetings in Washington, where the Biden administration is seeking to shift away from the confrontations of the Trump years. The U.S. has been in negotiations with Tehran to rejoin the international nuclear accord that former President Donald Trump quit, though talks are now on hold until after the Islamic Republic’s hardline president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, takes office in early August.

Zarif and al-Thani discussed Iran-Qatar ties and “the most important regional and international issues,” according to a statement from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that gave no further details.

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He also met with Raisi, who told him he planned to make Iran’s relations with regional countries his top foreign policy priority, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.

In January, al-Thani told Bloomberg TV that Qatar was ready to broker talks between Iran and its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, in order to end the crisis triggered by the unraveling of the nuclear accord.

An unsourced report in Iran’s reformist Etemad newspaper on Friday said Tehran and Riyadh will soon formally re-establish ties and that Saudi Arabia plans to send a representative to Raisi’s inauguration next month.

Saudi Arabia broke off ties with Iran in 2016 over Riyadh’s execution of a revered Shiite Muslim cleric, which provoked an attack on the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran. The sides are engaged in various proxy wars across the region, and Riyadh opposes efforts to revive the nuclear pact.

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