Qatari pm talks Taliban, Iran-US relations and Syria

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Qatari Prime minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani sat down with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour as the 78th session of the United Nations’ General Assembly began in New York.

Hot off the heels of the Iran-US prisoner swap, brokered by Qatar, Amanpour inquired about the potential for the agreement to mark a turning point in US-Iranian relations. Al-Thani conveyed an optimistic sentiment, stating, “I cannot claim that this will lead to a nuclear deal, but it’s going definitely to lead to a better environment.”

On Monday September 18, Iran released five American prisoners as part of a Qatar-brokered arrangement, in a deal which encompassed the unfreezing of approximately $6 billion in Iranian assets and the release of five Iranian detainees by the United States.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani expressed his deep satisfaction on Tuesday regarding Qatar’s involvement in facilitating the return of five American citizens who had been imprisoned in Iran earlier this week. This marked his first comprehensive discussion of Qatar’s role in the entire incident.

Al-Thani conveyed in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “We take immense pride in the fact that Qatar played a pivotal role in reuniting these individuals with their families.” Besides brokering the deal between the age-old foes, the Qatari government transported the American prisoners out of Iran in their aircraft.

The swap appeared to follow a de-escalation of hostilities between the two countries in recent months. Instances of Iran and its affiliated groups targeting American interests in the Middle East have markedly declined, and Iran’s oil exports have increased despite Western sanctions against its oil sector. Reports also suggest a deceleration in Iran’s uranium enrichment activities within its nuclear programme.

“I hope both countries are believing that this will lead to a better environment to go for an entire agreement on the nuclear issue, and any other outstanding issue,” the Qatari premier said.

This meticulously planned agreement had been in the works for several years and is being hailed as a major diplomatic achievement between the two adversarial nations. However, a senior official from the Biden administration was quick to comment that the deal does not mean relations have improved. Shortly after the American detainees departed from Iran, the Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions on the Iranian government.

On Qatar’s private talks with the Taliban, another instance of the small gas-rich nation’s strategy of diplomatic brokering, Amanpour asked what the prime minister had agreed to with the Taliban leader upon his visit to Kandahar. “When you look at the agreement itself”, it was entirely built around the “safe withdrawal of US troops and not to provide a safe haven for terrorist groups” Al Thani explained.

When Amanpour pressed the Qatari prime minister on his thoughts on Bashir al Assad, and the Syrian president having been welcomed with open arms by the Arab League Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in May, he stood firm.

“His Highness, mentioned in his speech earlier… we cannot tolerate war criminals”, Prime minister Al Thani continued, referencing Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari Emir’s speech at the United Nations’ General Assembly earlier that day.

Reiterating Qatar’s position on Syria the premier explained, “We don’t see anything that makes him eligible to come back to the Arab League”, adding “we cannot reward someone for not implementing Security Council resolutions”.

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