Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani meets his Iranian counterpart days before the Emir of Qatar meets US President Joe Biden.
Tehran, Iran – Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani spoke with his counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian in Tehran, days before the Emir of Qatar is due to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington, DC.
A reading of the meeting by Iran’s Foreign Ministry made no mention of continuing talks in Vienna to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and said the two men had mainly discussed Yemen and Afghanistan.
But the sequence of events before and after the visit could point to an apparent effort by Qatar to relay messages between Iranian and American officials.
Al Thani and Amirabdollahian held a phone call on Tuesday ahead of the visit, during which they discussed bilateral and regional issues, according to the two countries’ foreign ministries.
The Qatari Foreign Minister spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken the day before.
The visit also comes shortly before the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is due to travel to Washington on Jan. 31 to meet President Joe Biden at the White House.
Qatar has a history of trying to mediate between Iran and the United States in a bid to restore the nuclear deal and defuse regional tensions.
In a tweet after Thursday’s meeting, Amirabdollahian said history and experience have shown that US politicians cannot be trusted, so practical measures would form the basis of any judgment.
“On the issue of lifting sanctions, Iran’s interests must be taken into account, and something tangible must happen on the ground,” he wrote.
The Qatari foreign minister’s trip comes as signals from Iranian officials have renewed speculation about whether Iran and the United States will engage in direct negotiations for the foreseeable future.
Earlier this week, Iran’s foreign minister said Iran and the United States had not negotiated directly in Vienna so far, but suggested such a prospect might not be impossible.
“If we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong safeguards requires direct talks with the United States, we will consider that,” Amirabdollahian said.
Shortly after, Iranian security chief Ali Shamkhani said in a tweet that contact with the US delegation in Vienna had so far been through informal written exchanges and that there was no need Moreover.
“This method of communication can only be replaced by other methods when a good deal is available,” he wrote.
But on Thursday, the ultra-conservative Keyhan newspaper, which had criticized such prospects, reported that Shamkhani had called the newspaper, saying he had always been against direct talks with the United States.
The long-running talks in the Austrian capital have made considerable progress in recent weeks, according to participating delegations, but some key issues remain and require political decisions to be resolved.
Western participants in the talks have warned there are only weeks left to salvage the deal the United States unilaterally abandoned in 2018.
Iran has since stepped up its nuclear program. Tehran has long denied seeking nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is strictly peaceful.