The national flag of Qatar is hoisted in a street.
Valery Sharifulin | TASS | Getty Images
According to Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar is unlikely to normalize relations with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
In an interview on Friday, he also told CNBC that he was optimistic about improved relations with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council who lifted a 3½-year blockade against Qatar in January.
In US-brokered agreements, Israel signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan last year to establish diplomatic relations. But countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia claimed that Israel must first sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The main reason Qatar has no relations with Israel is “the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” said Al Thani.
“The reason is still there, still valid, and there is still no… step or hope for peace. We saw no light at the end of the tunnel, ”the Foreign Secretary told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.
Mediator in the region?
Foreign Minister Al Thani also said Qatar was ready to facilitate talks between the US and Iran.
Tehran has been negotiating with the United States and other world powers since April in Vienna on a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but it is unclear when the talks could be concluded.
“(The) US is a strategic ally for Qatar and we want to maintain this strategic alliance,” he said. On the other hand, Iran is “our neighbor, and we want stability there”.
He said Qatar was ready to facilitate discussions if asked.
“For now, we’re just getting the message across to both parties … to be more positive and constructive with each other and come to an agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
After all, it is in the interests of Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries to stop the nuclear race in the Middle East, the minister said.
Within the region, Qatar sees the need for a regional security framework between Iran, which has a Shiite Muslim majority, and the mainly Sunni GCC, the Foreign Minister added.
“We believe it is important that we lead such a dialogue and not leave it to other countries,” he said. “We appreciate and respect (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) to be part of being (a) supporter for it, but the core of this dialogue should be handled by the GCC and Iran.”
An article published by the Atlantic Council said Qatar has been trying to reposition itself as an “important regional mediator” since the GCC blockade was lifted, but Doha’s public mediation offerings could cement “suspicion in a GCC yet to be revitalized.”
Al Thani admitted that the 2017 diplomatic, trade and travel blockade against Qatar “broke” the GCC for a while. The Saudi-led blockade was mainly imposed over Qatar’s alleged support for terrorist groups.
“What happened… left a scar on the GCC, it takes time to heal,” he said.
Nonetheless, he was positive about the future of the economic alliance.
“There is a new page in the GCC, we are optimistic,” he said, adding that other GCC countries are also looking for better cooperation.