Iranian foreign minister urges regional cooperation after returning from Oman, Qatar

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made an appeal for greater regional cooperation on Tuesday after returning to Tehran from a two-day visit to Oman and Qatar.

FILE PHOTO - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens to anchor Charlie Rose, at an event held in conjunction with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Bria Webb

Zarif’s visit came with Qatar in the midst of a row with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Together with Egypt, they accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge it denies.

“We have repeatedly suggested a system of dialogue in the Persian Gulf, but unfortunately this has not been acknowledged by some countries, who see their future through tension, pressure and imposing on neighbors,” Zarif said, according to state media.

Qatar calls the economic boycott a “siege” aimed at neutering an independent foreign policy it says promotes peaceful regional reform and fighting terrorism.

Another point of contention between Qatar and its fellow GCC members is its relationship with the Islamic Republic.

Zarif said on Tuesday that the economic pressure regional neighbors have put on Qatar in recent months has brought about closer economic ties between Doha and Tehran, state media reported.

Zarif’s discussions in Oman and Qatar also focused on ending the conflict in Yemen as well as the situation in Iraq and Syria, where Iran is supporting the government of president Bashar al-Assad while Qatar has funded some armed opposition groups.

“With attention to the situation in Syria and that in the past, we had differences with Qatar; we need to have more dialogue,” Zarif said, according to state media. “But the political will exists to have a broader dialogue with all countries about ending the suffering of the Syrian people.”

The Qatari government announced it is restoring diplomatic ties with Tehran in August.

Qatar recalled its ambassador to Tehran in January last year after Saudi Arabia cut ties with the Islamic republic, accusing it of failing to protect its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad against demonstrators who had ransacked them.

The demonstrators were protesting Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric convicted on terrorism charges.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh, editing by Larry King