LONDON: Qatar has its "own assessment” different to the US on policy towards Iran, the country’s foreign minister said Sunday.
The comments are expected to alarm members of the Trump administration, which has beefed up America’s military presence in the region after an increased Iranian threat.
Qatar hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East but has become increasingly close to Iran despite Washington viewing Tehran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.
Since withdrawing from the 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, President Donald Trump has ramped up sanctions and vowed to curb Tehran’s destabilizing activities in the region.
Speaking in London, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Qatar respected US policy on Iran, but added: “We have our own assessment.”
“There is a big pressure on Iran’s economy, but Iran lived under sanctions for 40 years. It’s never been like this but they survived. We don’t see the repetition of the same way will create a different result,” he said. “They don’t want to have a continuation of the sanctions at the same level and enter negotiations. They believe there was an agreement and US was part of the agreement.”
Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar and other countries have been talking to both Iran and the United States about de-escalation, 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.”
Qatar’s close ties with Iran, along with its support of extremist groups, was one of the reasons Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf and Arab countries cut ties with Doha two years ago.
The comments from Qatar on a differing approach to Iran come after the US last month deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 long-range bombers to the region to tackle escalatory action by Iran.
The US has also said Iran was almost certainly behind an attack on four oil tankers, including two Saudi ships, off the coast of the UAE.
Sheikh Mohammed also spoke about the Trump administration's impending Middle East peace deal, saying there was a disconnect between the Palestinians and the US over the blueprint.
"It cannot be a solution like, sort of, imposed on the Palestinians – no country in the Arab world can accept that," Sheikh Mohammed said, of the deal to end decades of confict with Israel.