Qatar's FM Al Thani urges de-escalation in US-Iran row

REUTERS
ISTANBUL
Published 09.06.2019 19:47
Updated 09.06.2019 20:39
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, talks to journalists during a press conference in Rome, Saturday July 1, 2017. (AP Photo)
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, talks to journalists during a press conference in Rome, Saturday July 1, 2017. (AP Photo)

Qatar has been talking to both Iran and the United States about de-escalation, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters in London on Sunday, 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."

Tensions have risen between Iran and the United States in recent weeks after Washington reimposed economic sanctions on Iran after pulling out of a big-power nuclear deal, and sending forces to the Middle East in a show of force to counter what U.S. officials called Iranian threats to U.S. troops and interests.

Al Thani also said that there was a disconnect between the Palestinians and the United States over a U.S. blueprint aimed at ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, warning that a solution could not be imposed on Palestinians.

The U.S. blueprint, driven by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser, is seen by Palestinians, and by some Arab officials and politicians, as a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause.

"As far as we see, right now there is a disconnect between the Palestinians and the U.S.," Al Thani said.

"Our position remains very firm: We are going to support any plan that the Palestinians are willing to accept," he said.

Kushner, who has been trying to put together a peace plan, said in an interview broadcast last week that the Palestinians deserve "self-determination," but stopped short of backing Palestinian statehood and expressed uncertainty over their ability to govern themselves.

While its precise outlines have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on the draft plan say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution - the long-standing U.S. and international formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

"It cannot be a solution like, sort of, imposed on the Palestinians – no country in the Arab world can accept that," Al Thani said.

"If the plan is rejected by one of the parties it means the plan is either unfair or just not realistic," he said. "The best scenario is either that both parties accept it or that both parties reject it."

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will meet with Trump next month, the White House announced Friday.

The emir will meet Trump in Washington on July 9 for talks on regional politics, security and counterterrorism cooperation, according to the announcement.

"The visit will build on the longstanding partnership between the United States and Qatar and further strengthen our already substantial economic and security ties," the White House said.

Washington has sought to keep up relations with Qatar, an oil-and-gas rich state which has maintained cordial relations with Tehran even as other Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia have cooperated with Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.

For two years Saudi Arabia and its allies the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have barred Qatari flights from their airports and airspace, banned most Qatari visitors, cut trade and shipping links, and closed their borders, unhappy about Doha's insistence on maintaining its own approach to regional relations.

Washington was less than enthusiastic about the embargo on Qatar, which hosts two U.S. military bases and the forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Pentagon's operations across the Middle East.

Qatar is also slated to take part in the June 25-26 Bahrain conference on the Trump administration's Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, where Washington hopes to raise financial pledges to support the Palestinian economy.

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