Majed Al-Ansari, Qatar’s spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has suggested new talks could be coming between Iran and the US.
Al-Ansari stressed Doha's openness to hosting any direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran on the Iranian nuclear file, in the next few weeks.
He elaborated that “After the recent agreement between the two countries, which was concluded with Qatari mediation (the release of American prisoners and the lifting of the freeze on Iranian funds in South Korea), international interest in the Iranian file increased, and the possibility of reaching new understandings about it that would ease tension in the region."
Western and Iranian media have been reporting secret indirect talks in recent months that aim to de-escalate tensions, with Iran slowing down its nuclear program in return for financial rewards by Washington, including lax sanctions enforcement.
Qatar is among the nations to step forward and offer to be the intermediary in talks to revive the nuclear deal known as the JCPOA, including Oman and according to Iran, also Japan.
However, the US has denied the claims, even suggesting that Iran is far from ready to come to the diplomatic table. During Tuesday's State Department press briefing, spokesman Matthew Miller said Iran must take de-escalatory steps if it wants to reduce tensions and create a space for diplomacy.
“We have not yet seen indications, despite some of these public comments, that Iran is serious about addressing the concerns that we have, the concerns that other countries have about its nuclear program,” Miller told reporters.
Referring to the decision this month to ban one third of the Atomic Energy Agency Inspectors from Iran, Miller said the regime is only undermining the IAEA’s ability to do its work.
“If Iran really is serious about taking de-escalatory steps, the first thing it could do would be to cooperate with the IAEA. We have not seen them fully do that,” he said.
On the topic of direct talks, Miller remained tight-lipped, saying that while the US is open to diplomacy, he was unwilling to talk about how that would transpire. It would first of all, be conditional on Iran’s taking de-escalatory steps such as allowing all necessary access to the IAEA’s team.
“I could give you a long list of things we would like Iran to take in terms of changed behavior, but I’m speaking specifically with respect to the nuclear program right now,” he said on Tuesday in Washington.
Iran's foreign ministry Tuesday dismissed reports suggesting direct negotiations with the United States over sanctions relief have been given the green light by the Supreme Leader.
A website in the UK had earlier claimed that Iran was planning to engage in direct talks with the US in Oman concerning its nuclear program, given the go-ahead by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
The Qatari foreign minister’s statement is questionable at best, not backed up by anything substantial from either the US or even Iran, which is always only too happy to portray itself as the pillar of diplomacy, as was seen most recently at the UN where President Ebrahim Raisi even denied the country’s nuclear ambitions in spite of plentiful evidence otherwise.
It perhaps suggests the nation which is now managing Iran’s $6bn freed up from South Korea as a result of a prisoner swap deal this month which saw five wrongfully imprisoned American-Iranians exchanged for five regime agents, is once again trying to position itself as the region’s ‘peacemaker’.
Qatar has a history of engaging with terror groups in the name of diplomacy, hosting both the Taliban and Hamas, while claiming to be acting as mediator. During the four-year blockade of Qatar by the Persian Gulf states, Qatar grew closer to Iran, and the two nations share the world’s largest gas field. During the recent World Cup 2022, dissidents were harassed in Qatar by regime agents openly operating on Qatari soil.
Meanwhile, as the expiration of the United Nations’ sanctions on Iran approaches next month, a bipartisan group of senators have written a joint letter asking the governments of the UK, France and Germany, known as the E3, to prevent the sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile program’s expiration.
The letter, addressed to the ambassadors of the three nations, signed by 31 lawmakers including members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, thanked them for deciding to maintain their own sanctions beyond the deal’s expiry in October, but calling on them to help prevent the collapse of the sanctions.