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Qatar won’t normalize with Israel before 2-state solution reached, envoy says

Gulf state’s ambassador to US says Doha open to relations with Jerusalem if Palestinian state established, touts country’s role as a mediator between Israel, Hamas

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attends the oppening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/ Pool photo via AP)
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attends the oppening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/ Pool photo via AP)

Qatar has no problem with normalizing relations with Israel but will not do so before a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached, the Gulf nation’s ambassador to the US has said.

Mishaal bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told Voice of America on Wednesday that Qatar remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-backed proposal from 2002 that promises Israel full diplomatic ties with the entire Muslim world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.

“We believe in a two-state solution for the Palestinians and in securing Israel’s borders, and if these conditions are fulfilled, then we don’t see any reason for Qatar to not normalize relations with Israel,” Al-Thani said.

Though Doha won’t normalize ties with Jerusalem at this time, Al-Thani said Qatar would continue to send aid to the Gaza Strip and mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, referring to the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers.

“Qatar and the US have been working together for many years on regional issues and we were mediating at the request of the US administration, therefore we were talking with Hamas to encourage it to engage in political negotiations,” Al-Thani said.

Mohammad al-Emadi, Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, last month brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following a month of low-level violence along the border. He has regularly visited Gaza in recent years with Israeli approval, bringing funds to the Strip for purchasing fuel, paying civil servants and helping Gaza’s poor.

Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi (C) leaves a press conference at the Dar al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, on February 19, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Al-Thani’s comments came a day after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed normalization agreements with Israel in a ceremony at the White House. The only Arab states Israel previously had official ties with were Egypt and Jordan.

Though a US ally and a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Qatar has been boycotted by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain since 2017 for allegedly supporting terrorism, which it denies.

Israel’s then prime minister Shimon Peres, left, is received by the then Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in Doha, April 2, 1996. (AP Photo/QNA)

Israel established trade ties with Qatar in 1996 and set up an office there, but it was shuttered by Doha in 2000. Several former Israeli premiers and foreign ministers have met with Qatari leaders and traveled to Qatar.

Numerous Arab states have been named as potential candidates to follow the UAE and Bahrain in agreeing to establish ties with Israel, including Morocco, Sudan and Oman.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia meanwhile has reiterated its support for the Arab Peace Initiative, indicating it is unlikely to normalize relations with Israel until a Palestinian state is established, though US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he expected Riyadh to establish ties with Jerusalem.

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