The only interviews Qatar’s Amir has granted prior to this, were to CNN in 2014 and CBS in 2017.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani stressed that while no one officially approached Doha for mediation, it maintained a communication portal between Iran and the US.
“Of course, there are differences, everyone has some, but we must sit down and talk about them, directly between us and the Iranians, without outside interference,” Sheikh Tamim said in a major new interview with French outlet Le Point, the first such press appearance since becoming leader in 2013.
The Amir has only previously given an interview to CNN in 2014 and then CBS years later in 2017.
Published on Wednesday, the interview saw the Qatari leader take on various international and domestic issues, including Iran and US dialogue, the 2015 nuclear deal and normalisation with the occupying state of Israel.
In June, Qatar hosted a round of two-day indirect talks between Tehran and Washington in an effort to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We are talking with our US allies, and we are talking with the Iranians, because Iran is our neighbour,” the Qatari leader said, later adding that “it is in our duty and interest to do everything to bring the parties together and to encourage them in negotiating a peaceful settlement.”
As a heavyweight mediator, Doha has long pushed the need for dialogue in order to achieve peace across the world. Over the past years, the Gulf country has served as a platform for communication between conflicting sides, with instances including Chad and Afghanistan amongst other countries.
“Our foreign policy in Qatar aims to bring different points of view together, to help all parties who need it, and to play a role of facilitator, in the region and beyond.”
“The world needs dialogue to solve its problems,” said the leader.
“We do not limit ourselves in the choice of our interlocutors, as long as they believe in peaceful coexistence. But we are not willing to talk to those who oppose it.”
Commenting on Qatar and Iran’s ties, Sheikh Tamim said the Islamic Republic remains an important country that shares a “historical relationship” with Doha, as well as a shared gas field.
In the interview, the amir renewed the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) holding dialogue with Tehran to settle their differences.
“We encourage all GCC member states and Iran to talk to each other,” the Sheikh Tamim added.
Qatari mediation between Iran and US
Doha has played a crucial role in mediating to resolve issues among various parties in recent years despite not being an official party in the nuclear talks.
Analysts say Doha’s role in bridging the gap between the parties involved in the nuclear deal could prove to be fruitful.
“Qatar is being seen by both sides as a useful and trusted intermediary, through whom some options might be explored that either side is unwilling to be seen to offer directly,” Dr. Gerd Nonneman, Professor of International Relations and Gulf Studies at Georgetown University Qatar told Doha News.
Qatar’s mediation became more pronounced with the recent round of indirect talks seeing officials from Doha meet with Iran’s top negotiator, in late August.
Dr. Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President of the US think tank Quincy Institute told Doha News that the decision to choose Qatar as nuclear talks host is “mindful of the extremely valuable role Qatar has played in mediating between the United States and Iran.”
In a meeting between Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Regional Affairs Mohammed Al Khulaifi and Iran’s political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ali Bagheri Kani, Doha stressed the importance of increasing efforts to advance talks to restore the JCPOA.
A successful mediation between Iran and the US would “once again add to the perception that Qatar offers a very useful role in regional diplomacy by enabling parties who cannot fully engage with each other directly, to exchange ideas and offers through a 3rd-party trusted intermediary,” Dr. Nonneman told Doha News.
“Qatar has already built a solid track record of neutrality and trust, brokering peace agreements, conducting humanitarian missions and excelling at communication and dialogue with conflicted parties – in a demonstration of strategic diplomacy,” Zaid Al Hamdan, Chairman of political consultancy group Armasite Group told Doha News.
In late May, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said that reaching a common ground with regards to the nuclear deal between Iran and relevant world powers will aid in boosting stability in the Gulf region and help oil markets.
According to the country’s ministry of foreign affairs, the top diplomat said “pumping additional quantities of Iranian oil to the markets will help stabilise crude prices and reduce inflation.”