Iranian president meets Qatari emir in Doha ahead of gas forum
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s president arrived in Qatar on Monday and was welcomed in an official ceremony by the country’s ruling emir ahead of a global gas summit and as pressure mounts to relaunch Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
This is President Ebrahim Raisi’s fourth trip abroad since taking office six months ago. His visit to the neighboring Arab state of Qatar, with which Iran shares a vast undersea gas field, comes as the two Persian Gulf countries forge even closer ties.
At the start of his visit to Doha, the two leaders sat side by side as 14 cooperation agreements were signed in areas including aviation, trade, shipping, media, electricity, culture and education, according to media in both countries. Iran’s president visited Qatar with five cabinet ministers, including the ministers of foreign affairs and energy, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Speaking to reporters in Qatar, Raisi said Iran was “seeking a change in regional relations” around cooperation and interaction. Referring to the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around the Iran nuclear deal, he said the United States had to prove it was willing to lift major sanctions against his country.
“To reach an agreement, it is necessary to guarantee the interests of the Iranian people, especially the lifting of sanctions,” he said.
The United States participated indirectly in the talks because it unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 under President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden has signaled he wants to join the deal.
The small nation of Qatar, located east of the Arabian Peninsula and having only one land border with Saudi Arabia, is one of the world’s largest suppliers of liquefied natural gas. Despite its small size, it also plays a strategic role as a secondary channel, mediator and facilitator of negotiations between countries and groups.
Qatar’s ties with Washington and Tehran allow Doha to relay views between the two. Qatar’s foreign minister, who reportedly met his Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of the Munich security conference on Saturday, visited Tehran last month. This visit which took place a few days before the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, met President Joe Biden in Washington. Biden described Qatar as a “good friend and reliable partner” and named the energy-rich state a major non-NATO ally after its outsized role in assisting the chaotic mass evacuation of Afghans and foreigners after the Taliban took control of the country last time. the summer.
While in Qatar, Raisi will attend the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Doha, where he is expected to deliver a speech on Tuesday. The forum is expected to focus on tensions over Ukraine and what could happen to Europe’s energy supply if Russia were to invade. The forum aims to bring heads of state and energy ministers from gas exporting countries to interact and exchange views.
The forum, which comes as a growing number of nations pledge to switch to renewable energy and cut carbon emissions, represents the nations that hold 70% of the world’s proven gas reserves. In addition to Qatar and Iran, the forum includes Russia, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Algeria, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, in addition to the seven observer countries which are Angola, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Malaysia, Norway, Peru. and the United Arab Emirates
Iran, like Turkey, rushed to prop up Qatar with vital imports in the early days of a whirlwind diplomatic flurry in mid-2018 by four Arab nations, led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi saudi. Qatari flights were also diverted over Iranian airspace during this period. The quartet of nations have been angered by Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the region following the Arab Spring protests and Qatar’s ties to Iran.
Qatar has just over 300,000 citizens, but expatriate foreign workers on temporary visas far outnumber the local population. It is set to host the FIFA World Cup later this year, the first time the tournament will be played in the Middle East.
Vahdat reported from Tehran, Iran.
Amir Vahdat and Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press