Qatari prime minister says his nation does not ‘have a war with Israel’

In Singapore, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stresses backing for 2001 Arab Peace Initiative to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict, touts Doha’s role as regional mediator

Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani delivers a speech at the IISS Raffles Lecture in Singapore on August 25, 2023. (Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)
Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani delivers a speech at the IISS Raffles Lecture in Singapore on August 25, 2023. (Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

The prime minister of Qatar said on Friday that his country does not “have a war with Israel,” but stressed that the Jewish state must reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Asked about a potential Saudi-US-Israeli deal at a Q&A session following a speech in Singapore, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that Qatar’s position on any such agreement has remained consistent for years.

“We didn’t hear anything officially about any talks on Saudi-Israel, but at the end of the day, Qatar maintains the same position, that foreign policy decisions of each member states of the GCC — it’s based on their own assessment, on their own evaluation,” said Al-Thani, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a body which also includes Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, who established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020 under the Abraham Accords.

The prime minister said Qatar believes the best way forward is 2001’s Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, which offered normalization between Israel and the Arab world if Israel withdrew from the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights and allowed the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

“At the end of the day, we don’t have a war with Israel, the Israelis have an occupation over the Palestinians,” Al-Thani added. “So any agreement [of an Arab nation] with the Israelis doesn’t represent peace, the peace [could be] represented only between them and the Palestinians.”

Qatar and Israel do not currently have any diplomatic relations. Last year, however, the two nations cooperated to allow Israeli visitors to attend the World Cup soccer tournament, including allowing the first-ever direct charter flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Doha.

People check in at a counter in Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, the first commercial flight from Israel to Doha for the World Cup 2022 tournament, on November 20, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Jerusalem engages with Doha to grant permissions for the distribution of Qatari aid in the Gaza Strip, but details on such contacts are rarely publicly confirmed. Qatar hosted an Israeli trade office from 1995 to 2000, but is seen as unlikely to join other Gulf states in establishing full ties with Israel, due to its own relationship to Iran.

In his speech in Singapore on Friday sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Al-Thani also referenced the role his country — which has strong relations with the US — has played in brokering regional deals.

Describing Qatar as “a small state in a turbulent neighborhood,” the prime minister said that Doha “focuses on peace facilitation to strengthen international peace and security — this has been one of the key pillars of our foreign policy for more than 25 years.”

He also touted Qatar’s role as a mediator between Iran and the US in their recent prisoner swap deal.

Al-Thani pointed out that his country’s unique position has enabled it to open “reliable channels to communication” between warring nations, “resulting in vital ceasefires, dialogues and peace and security arrangements.”

Qatar has often played a role in brokering ceasefires between Israel and Gaza following flare-ups in violence, due to its close ties with Hamas.

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