Qatari and Iranian officials are scheduled to meet this week to discuss cooperation during the major sporting event.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has proposed a visa scheme enabling the entry of the FIFA World Cup 2022 visitors to Tehran with visas free of charge, Mehr News Agency reported on Sunday.
The proposal comes as Qatar and Iran seek to strengthen their cooperation in the tourism sector in preparation for the major sporting event, set to take place between 21 November until 18 December.
According to Mehr, the free-of-charge visa plan is currently awaiting the Iranian government’s approval and would cover nationals whose countries have qualified for the World Cup.
Those who would not be eligible for the free visa include nationals from the US, UK, Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Somalia and Sri Lanka.
Iran is set to face its rival, the US, during the World Cup for the first time since the 1998 edition of the sporting event. At the time, the Iranian team won 2-1 against its American counterpart.
Nationals of countries that have not qualified along with other visitors must submit their match tickets or paperwork to prove the purpose of their visit to Qatar in order to receive their free visa.
Once issued, the visas are going to be valid for two months and visitors can enjoy 20-day stays in Tehran whilst having the option to apply multiple times for the entry document.
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As Iran seeks to revive its tourism sector after the major toll of the Covid-19 outbreak, it aims to attract more visitors to Kish island, described by Iranians as “a pearl that shines”.
Iranian officials had stated that revenues from the tourism industry reached $11.7 billion in 2019, making up 2.8 percent of Iran’s total GDP. Tehran’s also ranked as the second fastest-growing country in tourism by the World Tourism Organization in the same year.
The island’s proximity to Qatar and its low costs would enable spectators to find a place to stay during the event.
Last month, Qatar and Iran agreed to carry out 400 flights and four cruise ships to travel between Kish and Doha.
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.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iranian road and transportation minister Rostam Qassemi and his Qatari counterpart Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti are planning on meeting in the Island of Kish this week.
The meeting would focus on ways the island would be utilised throughout the World Cup. The matter was on Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s agenda during his visit to Qatar in February, where he met with Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
In December, Iran’s deputy tourism minister Ali-Asghar Shalbafian said that the World Cup would help tackle “Iranophobia” by introducing the country’s unique tourist attractions to the world.
Beyond the pandemic, experts had stated that Iran’s tourism has struggled under what has been described as Western “media propaganda” that discourages people from traveling to the country.
This comes amidst ongoing tensions between the US and Iran following their withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord in 2018 under the Donald Trump administration.
In 2018, the former US president unilaterally withdrew Washington from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), re-imposing sanctions on Iran in bid to apply “maximum pressure” on the country.
Talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the nuclear accord first took place in April last year and have since yielded no major progress. Whilst recent statements by officials at the talks signaled a return to the deal, they have appeared to stall once again.
Iran has demanded the lifting of US sanctions and the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US Foreign Terrorist Organisations list. The paramilitary group was added to the list in 2019.
Qatar has been playing a key mediating role between the US and Iran per the two countries’ request. Officials in the country, including Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, have repeatedly stressed the importance of restoring the JCPOA.
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