Qatar says it's time Gulf Arabs start talks with Iran

Qatar denies it supports terrorism and has maintained cordial ties with Iran. PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA (BLOOMBERG) - Qatar has urged Gulf Arab nations to enter a dialogue with Iran, saying the time was right for Doha to broker negotiations now the neighbours have begun to patch up their own differences.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who has long called for a summit between leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Islamic Republic, said his government was "hopeful that this would happen and we still believe this should happen".

"This is also a desire that's shared by other GCC countries," he told Bloomberg TV in an interview.

The comments come days before United States President-elect Joe Biden moves into the White House with a promise to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and roll back the "maximum pressure" campaign that won the support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Biden has already named a series of diplomats who helped forge the original agreement to top policy posts.

Qatar recently mended a rift with Gulf Arab neighbours that had festered for more than three years and centred on accusations that it was bankrolling militant groups and undermining attempts to isolate Iran, whose regional influence and nuclear ambitions they fear.

A key US ally in the world's largest oil-exporting region, Qatar denies it supports terrorism and has maintained cordial ties with Iran, with which it shares a major gas field in the Persian Gulf.

That puts one of the world's largest gas exporters in position to play broker as the change in the White House prompts broader regional realignments and a shift away from confrontation.

Sheikh Mohammed said his government had offered to do just that and was already supporting ongoing discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of an oil tanker seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard early this month.

"Qatar will facilitate negotiations if asked by stakeholders and will support whoever is chosen to do so," he said.

"We want the accomplishment, we want to see the deal happening," he said of potential talks between the US and Iran.

"Wherever it is, whoever it is conducting this negotiation, we will support them."

Even as Qatar offers itself up as a regional mediator, Sheikh Mohammed said there was still some way to go in resolving differences with the UAE.

Asked about Doha's position on Islamist political movements, which Abu Dhabi considers a threat to stability, he said it was important to try to bridge differences but "we are going to support whatever the people will and whatever the people are going to seek for their countries".

"If they are going to seek for justice using peaceful ways to express what they think is right, Qatar will continue supporting the people."

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