First Published: 2003-05-15

 
Qatar ready to boost ties with Israel
 

Qatari FM says his country ready to raise level of diplomatic tie with Israel if Mideast peace process progresses.

 

Middle East Online

By Faisal Baatout - DOHA

It is Shalom's first meeting with an Arab FM since his appointment

With much of the Arab world still under the shock of war in Iraq, the Gulf state of Qatar has sprung a surprise initiative, offering to broaden relations with Israel in a bid to boost propects for Middle East peace.

"Relations between Qatar and Israel are currently limited to a trade mission," Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told Al-Jazeera satellite television Thursday after his Israeli counterpart, Silvan Shalom, in Paris a day earlier.

"If progress is made in the peace process, Qatar will not be against seriously considering the possibility of raising (the level of) relations," Sheikh Hamad said from the French capital.

It was Shalom's first meeting with an Arab foreign minister since he was appointed on February 27 and follows a US push to kickstart the peace process with the Palestinians.

Shalom said Qatar's strong relationship with the recently appointed Palestinian prime minister, Mahmud Abbas, could be a boost for peace.

"We discussed the Middle East peace process. Over an hour of talks, we asserted the will of both parties (Israel and the Arab world) to do everything to return to the negotiating table," he said.

Hamad, who met Shalom's predecessor, Shimon Peres, last July in Paris, saud the Israeli trade mission that opened in Doha in 1996 had been closed down just before a summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference took place in Qatar in 2000.

However, Doha has discreetly maintained links with Israel despite Arab calls to freeze political ties with the Jewish state.

Shortly before the US-led coalition launched war on Iraq in March, the Israeli foreign ministry recalled its three Qatar-posted diplomats and their families.

"Bringing back those diplomats heading up the commercial office in Doha does not imply the mission is to be closed," a ministry spokesman said at the time.

Sheikh Hamad told Al-Jazeera: "We are committed for a certain time to long talks with the Israelis because we must adopt practical steps to put an end to the killing between Israelis and Palestinians.

"There are daily massacres of Palestinian brothers, and there is no Arab action. That's why we've started to talk with the Israelis to find a solution.

"And the only solution is the start by Israel of serious talks with the Palestinians," Sheikh Hamad said, hailing the meeting scheduled for Saturday between Mahmud Abbas and Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon.

Abbas was briefed by Sheikh Hamad after the latter's talks with Shalom, according to a source close to the delegation currently traveling with Qatar's emir, who is in London after visits to Washington and Paris.

Qatar has established itself as a firm US ally in the Middle East.

It hosted the US military's command and control centre in the war on Iraq and is now preparing to welcome Washington's state-of-the art combined air command centre (CAOC) from Saudi Arabia to the huge Al-Udeid air base, 35 kilometres (20 miles) outside Doha.

 

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

US, allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

Tunisians demand Muslim marriage decree revoked

Historic Casablanca buildings crumbling in silence

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged

IS launches counter-attack to defend north Syria town

Saudi intercepts four ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles

Saudi to set up investment fund to help Jordan

Iran slams Bahrain terror cell claims as ‘delusional’

UN says 30 million unsure of next meal in MENA region

Putin to meet Iran President in Moscow

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East