1128 GMT May 23, 2019
Unlike most other Persian Gulf states, Qatar has continued to support the Iran nuclear deal, distancing itself from the anti-Iranian axis of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Guardian reported.
“Our position on the Iran deal is that, like the Europeans, we support it,” Thani said. “We do not want a nuclear arms race in our region, and that is the danger.”
He insisted this did not mean his country had now, as some claimed, formed a new axis with Iran and Turkey. “Our geography is difficult. We have sided with no one. It’s not easy to be a facilitator for talks between adversaries.
“If you look at the core of the issue, the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council needs to reach an understanding with Iran, not just Saudi Arabia and Iran – all of us are living in the same neighborhood and we need to reach an understanding. That was the common position of the [P]GCC countries until 2017, but the boycott changed everything.”
Qatar has been on the receiving end of an economic, diplomatic and political boycott by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, stretching back to June 2017. Those countries accuse Qatar of funding extremist groups and being too close to Iran – allegations Qatar categorically denies.
The Qatari official said he had spoken to Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s Middle East advisor, who told him his much-delayed Israel-Palestine peace plan for the region would be “ready in a few weeks”.
Qatar, Thani insisted, “had no interest in anything that is not a two-state solution, 1967 borders, the right of return, clear designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine”.
The senior Qatari politician said that the Middle East’s polarized and repressive politics will lead to even more instability in the region unless countries take steps to reform and calm tensions,
“Anyone that looks at the situation right now – the polarization in the region – is quite certain that things will not remain like this,” Thani said.
“You cannot keep people under oppression for a long time, so to prevent this instability from happening, we just want leaders to start reforming. We have to practice preventative diplomacy rather than reactive diplomacy.”
He called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate with the inquiry set up by the UN to look into the death of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Thani reserved some of his harshest judgements for the Khashoggi assassination, which the CIA has concluded was probably ordered by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. “What has happened was a brutal crime,” Thani said. “The family of Khashoggi needs answers and needs to be able to identify what happened to their father. There has to be accountability for what happened. Dealing with political opposition through crimes is wrong.”
Although he said it was not for him to judge the legal process of other countries, he said he hoped Saudi Arabia would cooperate with the UN inquiry into the death. “Since the UN inquiry is an international process under international law, everyone should co-operate,” he said.
As to Qatar’s own democratic progress, Thani said his country – ruled by a monarch – was slowly evolving, with imminent parliamentary elections. “We cannot replicate the model of western democracy 100%,” he said. “We have different customs and models, but we are taking significant steps”.