Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hosted his Qatari counterpart Saturday for talks in Tehran amid escalating tensions after US forces killed a top Iranian military commander in Baghdad., reports BSS/AFP. Zarif and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani discussed ‘the new situation in Iraq and the assassination of General Haji Qasem Soleimani’ as well as regional and international issues, Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The US military killed Soleimani on Friday in an air strike outside Baghdad international airport that shocked the Islamic republic and sparked fears of a new war in the Middle East. In his meeting with the Qatari foreign minister, Zarif called the US attack a ‘terrorist act’ that led to the ‘martyrdom’ of the commander. ‘Iran does not want tension in the region, and it is the presence and interference of foreign forces that cause instability, insecurity and increased tension in our sensitive region,’ he said.
According to Iran’s foreign ministry, Thani said the situation in the region was sensitive and concerning. He called for a peaceful solution to be found leading to de-escalation. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also met with the Qatari foreign minister. Qatar, a key US ally in the region, is home to Washington’s largest military base in the Middle East. Its relationship with Shiite-dominated Iran, seen as the major rival to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia in the region, is one of the major factors underpinning a crisis between Qatar and its former allies.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing Doha of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran, charges that Qatar denies.