Qatar, Iran take big step forward toward expansion of ties
2 sides discuss wide-ranging issues during Qatari ruler's visit to Tehran
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Iran's capital Tehran on Thursday afternoon on a high-profile day-long visit during which the two sides held wide-ranging talks on bilateral and regional issues.
The visiting official was received at the airport by Iran's Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, after which the cavalcade left for Saadabad Palace in northern Tehran for the official welcome ceremony and talks.
Following the talks, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and the Qatari ruler convened a joint news conference, giving details about discussions that ranged from the expansion of bilateral ties, regional security, and collaboration in hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as well as Iran nuclear talks.
In his remarks, Raisi said the two sides discussed bilateral political, economic, trade, cultural, and energy cooperation, with emphasis on joint investments.
He called the Qatari ruler's visit to Tehran a turning point in relations between the two countries and said it will help in boosting cooperation between Tehran and Doha.
Commenting on regional security cooperation, Iran's president said the onus of maintaining security in the region lies with regional governments while calling for "non-interference of Western powers."
He also called for an end to the crisis in Yemen, the formation of an inclusive, broad-based government in Afghanistan, and the liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds.
Condemning journalist's killing
Iran's president strongly condemned the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, offering condolences to the Qatari ruler and the Al Jazeera network.
He commended journalists for "giving voice to the oppressed Palestinians" and added that the Israeli crimes "will not last long."
The Qatari ruler, in his remarks, also condemned the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
He further said that he had discussed with his Iranian counterpart the importance of resolving regional conflicts through dialogue and peaceful ways, in particular the issues in Palestine, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
On the stalled nuclear deal talks in Vienna, Al Thani said Qatar has "always had a positive view" of talks in Vienna, and believes that dialogue is the only way to reach a fair deal.
Speculation is rife that the Qatari ruler has been tasked to end the stalemate in Vienna talks as well as help in unfreezing Iran's frozen assets abroad.
Importantly, his last visit to Iran came weeks after the assassination of Iran's top military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in 2020 to reduce tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Al Thani's state visit comes a day after European Union deputy foreign policy chief Enrique Mora landed in Tehran to hold talks with Iranian officials on reviving the stalled Vienna talks, pointing to efforts by both Qatar and the EU in breaking the ice between Iran and the US.
Following his visit to Tehran, the Qatari emir will be heading to Germany, Britain, and some other European states, which observers have linked to efforts to get Vienna talks back on track and to help unfreeze Iran's blocked assets abroad.
Last week, Qatari Ambassador to Tehran Mohammed Hamad Saad Alfheyd al-Hajari held talks with the governor of Iran's Central Bank Ali Salehabadi over the release of Iranian blocked assets, which came a week after a "regional delegation" visited Tehran to evolve a mechanism for freeing Iran's assets.
Expansion of ties
The Qatari emir's visit to Iran comes three months after the two Persian Gulf neighbors signed a series of bilateral agreements during Raisi's visit to Doha.
Raisi is expected to pay another official visit to Qatar later this month, Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Last week, top Qatari diplomat Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi was in Tehran to hold talks with senior Iranian officials as part of the political consultative committee between the two neighbors.
During the meeting, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri said regional countries can come together to foster security in their neighborhood "through political cooperation and economic convergence."
For his part, the visiting Qatari diplomat said that bilateral cooperation and regional political consultations were key to achieving peace and stability in the region.
Iran and Qatar have significantly expanded bilateral cooperation in recent years, especially in trade and commerce.
Adnan Mousapour, the head of the Iran-Qatar joint chamber of commerce, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Qatari emir's visit will "herald a new future" in economic relations between the two neighbors.
He said Iranian and Qatari entrepreneurs were keen on boosting cooperation and that Iran's private sector was ready to play a role in hosting 2022 FIFA World Cup guests in the Persian Gulf island of Kish.
Notably, the Qatari ruler during his meeting with Iran's Vice President Mohammad Mokhber on Thursday welcomed Tehran's offer to cooperate in hosting the marquee sports event and said the visa process will be facilitated for Iranian spectators.