Qatar emir calls for regional de-escalation at 'sensitive' time during visit to Iran

Updated January 12, 2020

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani during a welcome ceremony in Iran on  Jan 12. — Reuters
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani during a welcome ceremony in Iran on Jan 12. — Reuters

Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, said during a visit to Iran on Sunday that de-escalation and dialogue were needed to resolve regional crises at a “sensitive” time.

He was speaking in a televised news conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a visit to Tehran at a time of heightened US-Iran tensions that threaten to destabilise the region.

Sheikh Tamim also thanked Iran, with which his country shares a giant gas field, for supporting Doha by providing air and land routes after Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a trade and transport boycott on Qatar in mid-2017

Qatar is close to the US and hosts Washington's largest military base in the region, but it also enjoys strong ties with Tehran, with whom it shares the world's largest gas field.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani reportedly called for a peaceful solution that would lead to de-escalation during a visit to Tehran in the immediate aftermath of the US strike on January 3.

The visit follows the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad's airport, and Iran's admission that it shot down an airliner near Tehran by mistake on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran retaliated against the US for Soleimani's death by firing missiles at American assets in Iraq, which US President Donald Trump said caused no casualties.

Qatar's relationship with Iran, seen as the major rival to Saudi Arabia in the region, is one of the major factors underpinning a crisis between Qatar and its former allies.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing Doha of backing extremism and being too close to Iran, charges Qatar denies.