x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Emir of Qatar says US should talk with Iran

Two years ago, the Emir of Qatar brought Lebanon¿s bickering political parties to Doha to work out an agreement.

Two years ago, the Emir of Qatar brought Lebanon's bickering political parties to Doha to work out an agreement - with the help of the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria - that averted possible civil war.

"Our policy is to be friendly with everybody … we are looking for peace," Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told the Financial Times in an interview in Doha before his state visit to the UK this week.

"It doesn't mean if two parties turn against each other we had to go to one party. No, we would like to stick with the two parties."

Such a delicate diplomatic dance has not been without its difficulties for the emir, who came to power 15 years ago,

While Qatar hosts a US military base, Sheikh Hamad is critical of US policy toward Iran and said US warplanes would not be allowed to depart Qatari soil to hit targets in Iran.

"As a small country, we have good relations with the Americans, in terms of military ties, education, health, but … politically, no we don't have a good relationship. But we are happy with their presence," he said.

"As a neighbour to Iran, and we have lived with Iranians for a long time together, we believe that the best thing is dialogue. The Americans should speak with Iran.

"Iran is a big and great country … sanctions will affect [it] in some way, but the question is do we want Iran to co-operate with the world … or do want to push Iran into a corner."

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the emir said the US president, Barack Obama, "should speak frankly" to the Israelis.

"The Americans should tell the Israelis that they have to do something to achieve peace in the Middle East.

"And the Americans should tell them that 'we are not going to follow you. We have other friends in the region, and they are suffering because of your decisions against the Palestinians'."

foreign.desk@thenational.ae