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Qatar enhances ties with Iran amid ongoing Arab boycott

Thu, Nov. 9, 2017
CAIRO – 9 November 2017: Qatari Ambassador to Tehran, Ali bin Ahmed Ali al-Sulaiti, who resumed his diplomatic duties from the Qatari embassy in Tehran last August, held meetings with Iranian officials to promote his country amid the Arab boycott.

Sulaiti held a meeting with Iranian Parliamentary Director-General for International Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Sulaiti claimed that "his country has always had close relations with Iran," and described his country's relations with Iran as fraternal.

The Qatari ambassador also voiced deep concern over the recent developments in the region. “Qatar will stand against all threats and pressure, and will always welcome dialogue to clear any misunderstandings,” the ambassador added.

Since the Qatari crisis broke out in early June, Iran has taken advantage of the gap caused by the Arab boycott to boost ties with Qatar.

Qatar’s relations with several Arab states have been strained since May 24 over a leaked statement attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad. The statement criticized the Gulf emirate’s foreign policy with Iran, describing it as “unwise.”

On 5 June, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed economic sanctions, accusing it of funding terrorism – a claim Qatar rejects. They also closed their airspace and seaports to Qatari transportation.

Qatari-Iranian relations can be divided into two stages. The initial stage was described as “alliance relations,” but during the current situation of the Arab boycott, these ties can be seen as “conspiratorial relations.”

Iran seems to take an indifferent stance to Qatar’s funding of Sunni extremist groups in Syria and Iraq that fight Iranian influence in the region; choosing instead to aid the Qatari emir during his country’s crisis to achieve economic and political gains.

Although Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it relies heavily on importing food, as most of the country consists of desert. According to the World Bank’s data, the Arab nation has imported about $1 billion of foodstuffs in 2015, with about a third of that coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The condition in Qatar has created an opportunity for the Iranian food industry to supply products to the Gulf nation.

Mohammad Lahooti, the chairman of the Iran Export Confederation, said the Qatari condition offered a unique opportunity for the Iranian economy. He asserted that Iran should take advantage of the current situation as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Iran’s biggest confectionery company, Shirin Asal Food Industrial Group, is planning to enter Qatar’s retail market. With a turnover of about $5 billion per annum, the group announced it was planning to set up a factory in Qatar. The company, which produces more than 1,000 products, conducted a four-month-long market study in Qatar and got encouraging feedback.
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