The foreign minister of Qatar criticized Iran Monday for its continued support of the Assad regime in Syria and for greater dialogue between Gulf countries and Tehran. A day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in the Qatari capital with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah discussed how Iran can be a good neighbor to the Gulf states and also talked about the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in an interview with the Associated Press.
Al-Attiyah, the Qatar's top diplomat, said Monday the Iranian nuclear deal has opened up the possibility of broader diplomatic relations. The deal between Iran and world powers to ease economic sanctions in exchange for halting Iran's nuclear program, is both supported and feared by the Gulf states due to long-standing conflicts with Iran.
"We should have a serious dialogue with our neighbor, the Iranians, and ... lay down our concerns from both sides, and solve them together. Iran is our neighbor in the region," al-Attiyah told AP.
While Qatar, like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, is ethnically Arab and predominately Sunni, Iran is Shiite and non-Arab, and the countries have been on the opposite sides of many regional conflicts, including the civil wars in Yemen and Syria. Al-Attiyah suggested Iran will need to stop supporting the Syrian regime, Yemeni rebels and militants such as Hezbollah to further diplomatic relations with Qatar and other Gulf states. Tehran has been criticized for promoting regional instability through its support of militant groups in other countries.
"We are all in the GCC working toward a good neighborhood. We want also Iran to take this approach as well, and only then we can have a fruitful dialogue," al-Attiyah said, according to Arab News, adding Iran "must stop its support for Hezbollah" and Houthis, Yemen's Shiite rebels, and wish "Iran looked at Syria through the [eyes of the] Syrian people and not through the brutal regime."
Al-Attiyah also defended Qatar against criticism of the 2022 World Cup in the country and the multiple human rights violations surrounding it, saying conditions for migrant workers building the infrastructure for the upcoming soccer tournament will be improved.
"Some parties cannot digest that a small Arabic state ... is hosting such an event, as if our region, our Arab region is not entitled to have an event," he told AP.