In an exclusive interview with Doha News, Iran’s envoy in Qatar said the Gulf nation’s role will not forgotten.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani highly anticipated visit to Iran on Thursday is set to play a crucial role in the two countries’ ties. This is what Iran’s Ambassador to Qatar Hamid Reza Dehghani told Doha News in a sit-down interview before departing for Tehran.
“The government and people of Iran both welcome the important visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim and we hope to witness the same success as the one we saw during the visit of His Highness President Ebrahim Raisi to Qatar,” said Dehghani.
Dehghani said that there is a possibility of seeing more agreements signed during the Amir’s visit whilst implementing existing ones.
“We are working to make this visit a platform for a qualitative leap in relations between the two countries,” said the Iranian envoy.
The visit comes as Qatar mediates between Iran and the US in an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear accord, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Talks aimed at reviving the accord have been taking place since April last year in Vienna with the participation of the p4+1, which include; the UK, France, China, Russia, plus Germany.
The US had unilaterally abandoned the deal in 2018 under the former Donald Trump Administration, which vowed to exert “maximum pressure” on the country. In turn, it has reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
“Qatar always has the ability to help bring back the Americans to their promises per the nuclear deal. We always say that they are the ones who abandoned the accord and betrayed, not just the agreement, but the rules and, unfortunately, the Security Council’s resolution,” said Dehghani.
A source told Reuters this week that Sheikh Tamim’s visit seeks to bring all parties of the nuclear accord to a ‘new middle ground.’ Dehghani said that Qatar has played a positive role and Tehran welcomes it.
“This is a role that will not be forgotten, not by the people of Iran, globally, nor history,” said Dehghani.
Following Iran, Sheikh Tamim will be making a stop at the UK and other European countries with the JCPOA high on the agenda. Commenting on the other visits, Dehghani said he believes they play a key role given the presence of countries such as the UK in the deal.
“We see it as an opportunity given the British influence on the Americans to return to the accord and lift the sanctions and fighting the people with their economy, the dollar and sanctions and this is a new war,” said the Iranian official.
An apparent stalemate occurred this year when Tehran insisted on removing its paramilitary group, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, from Washington’s Foreign Terrorist OrganiSation list.
Claims over a stalemate were denied by Iranian officials.
Throughout the negotiations, Iran has been demanding guarantees from the US that it will not back out of the deal again. A key demand has also been the lifting of economic sanctions on the country.
Commenting on the impact of the sanctions on Iranians, Dehghani said that they have targeted the people’s wellbeing.
“We knew that the sanctions were only a way to stop us from being independent, to stop the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran from being sovereign,” he said.
Dehghani has also reiterated that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon, a claim that has been echoing for decades.
“The head of the Islamic revolution, Imam Khomeini, had released a global fatwa [ruling] that obtaining a nuclear weapon, not just using it, but also obtaining it is haram [prohibited],” he said.
The sanctions, the official noted, have also impacted their ability to acquire medicine. The US has denied those claims.
“There are people impacted and children with [cancer] that needed some medicine. Since we were unable to send the money and pay for the medicine, many people died for this reason,” said Dehghani.
The Iranian envoy said that the sanctions “will remain on the US’ dark record and its leadership.”
World Cup cooperation
During President Raisi’s visit to Doha, the two countries agreed to cooperate in matters related to the World Cup, set to take place late this year.
With Iran hoping to expand its tourism sector during the World Cup, it proposed a visa scheme enabling the entry of the World Cup visitors to Tehran with visas free of charge.
Iran seeks to attract more visitors to Kish island, described by Iranians as “a pearl that shines”. The island’s proximity to Qatar and its low costs would enable spectators to find a place to stay during the highly-anticipated event.
“Qatar is not hosting the World Cup as a single country as we believe that this is a proud moment for the entire region. When spectators visit the World Cup in Qatar, we want to introduce them to the values of this region,” he said.
The Supreme Council of Free Trade and Special Economic Zones of Iran, Saeed Mohammad, had said that the country seeks to host up to 100,000 tourists for the World Cup.
Iran had added finalising touches to the Kish Airport whilst increasing its five-star hotels from 10-to-15.
Visits were seen between ministers of the two countries in the transportation and tourism sector to increase their cooperations in the fields.
Last month, the Iranian road and transportation minister Rostam Qassemi and his Qatari counterpart Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti in Kish island.
The visit was followed with the signing of a number of agreements.
Three bilateral documents were signed in the aviation sector, an agreement in maritime transportation, and a document detailing cooperation grounds regarding World Cup.
“We are ready for all the support that we can provide to the brothers and sisters in Qatar, to host these people, to get to know them and help them to know the region, know the history of the region,” said Dehghani.
Iran-Saudi Arabia talks
Other topics that Doha News and the Iranian envoy discussed included the talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In 2017, Qatar was under an air, land, and sea blockade by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt over baseless claims that it supported terrorism. Doha vehemently denied those claims.
One of the demands put forward by the blockading quartet to lift the embargo was for Qatar to sever its ties with Iran, which the former has rejected.
However, the region began witnessing an apparent shift in Saudi Arabia’s position towards its rival Iran following the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration in 2021, which has ended the regional rift.
“We were happy to hear that the reconciliation happened, because if there is no reconciliation between Qatar and the Arab countries, then how can we expect Qatar to be a mediator between us and these countries?” said Dehghani.
Saudi Arabia had cut off ties with Iran in 2016 after the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, which came after the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr in the same year by Saudi Arabia.
Since Al-Ula, Saudi and Iranian officials held four rounds of talks in Baghdad, with a fifth round reportedly taking place soon in the Iraqi capital.
Qatar had also previously expressed its willingness to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran since the signing of the accord.
“At the end, we are neighbours whether we like it or not. We are neighbours, we were neighbours, and we are still neighbours and will be neighbours forever. For this reason, we have to resolve our issues with our own hands.”