Qatar’s envoy visits Iran as Tehran and Washington consider direct talks
Qatar’s envoy visits Iran as Tehran and Washington consider direct talks

DUBAI: Qatar’s top diplomat visited Iran on Thursday, Iranian state media reported, days before Qatar’s ruling emir holds talks in Washington at a crucial time for efforts by Tehran and major powers to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.

The visit by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani’s comes after his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Monday said Tehran is ready to consider direct talks with Washington if it feels it can get a “good nuclear deal”.

However, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said the visit was not intended to help set up direct talks with Washington.

“Although Doha and Tehran are experiencing good and close relations, this visit ... has fuelled some misconceptions. Some are fabricating it to facilitate direct talks with the United States,” IRNA said.

The United States and Iran have held eight rounds of indirect talks in Vienna since April aimed at reinstating the pact that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme.

After then-U.S. President Donald Trump quit the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, Iran gradually started violating the pact’s nuclear curbs.

Significant gaps remain about the speed and scope of returning to the deal, including Iran’s demand for a U.S. guarantee of no further punitive steps, and how and when to restore curbs on Iran’s atomic work.

Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will hold talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on Jan. 31 including on efforts to salvage the pact. The minister, Sheikh Mohammed, is expected in Washington on Friday in advance of the emir’s visit.

Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi emphesized the importance of “deepening ties between regional countries” in a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, who invited the president to attend Gas Exporting Countries Forum summit in February in Doha.

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