Qatar has reiterated its determination to bolster the already “excellent” ties with Iran, dismissing media speculation that a recent thaw in relations with Saudi Arabia could undermine Doha’s ties with Tehran.
“Our relations with Iran and Turkey are excellent and we are happy to witness stability in the region,” Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lolwah Al-Khater said in an interview, IRNA reported.
Al-Khater also thanked those who stood beside Qatar throughout the Saudi-led siege of the country, highlighting the necessity of preserving peace in the Persian Gulf.
Beginning on June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia and its allies — the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt — severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and laid a siege against the country. They demanded that Qatar reduce diplomatic relations with Iran, stop military coordination with Turkey and close Al-Jazeera, among other things.
The blockade failed to reach its goals, and instead, prompted Qatar to forge closer ties with Iran and Turkey, both of whom helped Qatar weather the economic pressure and reroute its flights.
Qatar and the quartet moved toward resolving the crisis earlier this month, reaching an agreement that would allow the resumption of commerce and travel between Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the first time since the siege was laid.
“The Persian Gulf crisis was of no benefit [to anyone], but rather, it was detrimental to everyone,” Al-Khater said.
“Following the signing of the peace agreement on January 5th, Arab and Western media reported that the agreement may affect Qatar’s relations with Turkey and Iran, but the Turkish and Iranian foreign ministries were the first who welcomed the agreement,” she said, Mehr news agency reported.
In similar remarks on January 7, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani reaffirmed the importance of preserving ties with Tehran and Ankara, despite his country’s reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and its allies.
“Bilateral relationships are mainly driven by a sovereign decision of the country… [and] the national interest,” said the top Qatari diplomat in an interview with the Financial Times. “So, there is no effect on our relationship with any other country,” he added.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Qatar’s agreement with Saudi Arabia by congratulating Doha for the success of “its brave resistance to pressure and extortion.”
In a tweet on January 5, Zarif also addressed other Arab countries of the region, noting, “Iran is neither an enemy nor threat. Enough scapegoating—especially with your reckless patron on his way out. Time to take our offer for a strong region. #HOPE.”
He was referring to the Hormuz Peace Initiative (HOPE) that Iran presented to the United Nations in 2019 with the aim of promoting collective neighborly efforts to ensure the region’s security, free from foreign interference.
Following the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, Qatar called on member states of the Saudi-led Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to enter talks with Iran and work to patch up the differences, saying Doha was ready to mediate such negotiations.