The official also revealed that Qatar advised the US to reach an agreement with Iran over the restoration of the nuclear deal by June 12th.
Qatar adamantly refuses to normalise with the Syrian regime as the “current circumstances are unfeasible”, Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lolwah Al-Khater said.
“The current circumstances are not suitable for its [Syria’s] return to its seat in the Arab League,” Al-Khater told Russia’s Kommersant on Wednesday.
The Qatari official added that Doha’s position is unrelated to decisions made across the rest of the GCC, stressing the importance of looking into the latest developments on the ground in Syria.
“It’s not a matter of Qatar or other countries accepting Bashar Al-Assad as a legitimate president for the country, it is rather related to the Syrians’ position,” she said, adding that current reports reflect a “great divide” regarding the election results and the way in which they were conducted.
During the interview, Al-Khater said Doha urges a just transfer of power in Syria while emphasising the importance of enabling millions of Syrian refugees to safely return to their homes without obstacles.
“The situation is very complicated, the revolution in Syria has turned into a civil war, and resolving this situation requires time,” said Al-Khater.
On the Qatari and Russian positions in the war in Syria, Al-Khater said there are “no differences”, noting that the two countries are ready to collaborate with the international community to find a solution to the crisis.
Both Qatar and Russia, as well as Turkey, joined efforts earlier this year in order to find a political solution to the war in Syria while holding to account those involved in war crimes committed against Syrians.
However, although the international community is working towards ensuring that all aid is transferred through the “right channels”, providing humanitarian assistance to Syria and reconstructing the war-torn country remains a complicated task.
When asked about potential obstacles the Assad regime would impose on Qatar, Al-Khater said that such matters do not depend on a single person, but the Qatari side needs to ensure that the aid is delivered to those who in need.
“The Qatar Red Crescent operates in Syria in areas where it does not face any danger,” she explained.
Regarding the continued claims of Hamas receiving Qatari monetary aid in the Gaza Strip, Al-Khater confirmed that the group does not fully control all matters in the besieged city.
“This is a fairly common misconception. There are about 2 million people in Gaza. And of course, not all of them are Hamas,” she said.
“The Palestinian Authority, for example, oversees electricity supplies to the Strip, while the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] has contributed to creating about 12,000 temporary jobs unrelated to Hamas as well,” added Al-Khater.
Moreover, Al-Khater said that statements about Hamas’ control of the Gaza strip are often made by Israeli politicians for political reasons, the most recent of which are linked to elections.
“So recently, one Israeli politician, who acted as a competitor to the incumbent prime minister, announced the need to revise the mechanism for the reconstruction of Gaza…for him, these statements were a reflection of a political struggle,” she explained.
Following a deadly 11-day bombardment of Gaza, Tel Aviv cited its refusal to allow Qatari aid in over claims that it will go towards Hamas, which it views as a terrorist organisation.
To respond to the latest brutal offensive, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani pledged an additional $500 million dollars to help rebuild the Strip.
“I repeat, the process of helping Gaza is transparent, approved by the UN, has been working for many years, and no one has opposed, including Israel and the United States.”
The Qatari official noted that Doha has been helping Gaza since 2014 and “succeeded in coordinating a joint mechanism” with the UN to provide aid in a transparent manner to up to 100,000 families.
The feud between Hamas and the US remains one of the most important files for both Washington and Doha.
Commenting on whether there has been a shift in the US’ position, Al-Khater said that while she cannot speak on behalf of Washington, there have been some changes, citing statements made by several officials.
“For example, they express their support for the efforts to rebuild Gaza and call on Israel to allow this to occur. We’ve never seen such things before, at least during the previous administration,” she said.
On Iran mediation
Meanwhile, the Qatari official also spoke about ongoing efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal – or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] – in Vienna talks.
“We tried to act as a mediator between Iran and the United States and at some point there was a discussion about Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council. We are always ready to contribute to this process,” said Al-Khater.
She explained that Qatar’s mediation takes place from time-to-time – at the end of 2019 and early 2020 during an attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad as well as the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
“At this time, the region was on the brink of war. Qatar worked hard with both sides to reduce tensions, and there were several other countries with similar interests. Including Iraq, which is located in the middle between the two forces,” said Al-Khater.
Doha expressed its readiness to support negotiations when the Joe Biden administration was sworn in, she noted.
“They [US and Iran] themselves are working on it, but the big question between them is: who will take the first step?” she said.
Al-Khater said that she advised the US to reach an agreement with Iran ahead of its upcoming elections by June 12th.
“But it won’t work that way. The elections are just around the corner, and I think now we need to wait a bit after the elections to understand the new position. We hope that it will be as open as we saw before,” said Al-Khater.
She also revealed that European powers involved the accord—France, the United Kingdom, and Germany—sought Qatar’s support ahead of the Vienna talks.
“We tried to convince the Iranians to go to Vienna. The problem was that the Iranians did not want to see the United States at the negotiating table, since the Americans withdrew from the JCPOA. So it all took a little work, but we hope the result will be productive,” said the Qatari official.