Saudi Arabia and Qatar say dialogue can solve differences with Iran and Afghanistan

Foreign ministers speak on opportunities for progress at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. Photo: Screengrab from video
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Dialogue is the only way forward to resolve differences with Iran and Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s foreign ministers said on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the focus of Saudi Arabia and its GCC neighbours on their own economies rather than the challenges surrounding them sends a message to Tehran.

“When it comes to Iran, we have reached out and we are trying to find a path to dialogue,” Prince Faisal said. “We believe very strongly that dialogue is the best pathway to resolving differences.”

“Focusing on development rather than geopolitics is a strong signal to Iran and others in the region that there is a pathway beyond the traditional arguments and disputes towards joint prosperity.”

The Saudi Foreign Minister was speaking with Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani as part of a panel on opportunities for progress on urgent global challenges.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar restored ties in January 2021 after Riyadh ended a dispute with Doha. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties, accusing Qatar of supporting militant groups, which it denied.

The Qatari Foreign Minister spoke about Doha’s recent efforts to mediate with Afghanistan. Kabul’s recent decisions were a “disappointment”, he added.

“Recent measures by the Taliban government in Afghanistan have been very disappointing,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“But we will not stop our mediation efforts in Afghanistan. The only way forward is to find a resolution as the alternative is civil war.”

Qatar has expressed “extreme concern” over the recent order by the Taliban to stop women working for NGOs, calling on the administration to review its decision.

Doha hosted a Taliban office during the US-led war in Afghanistan and was a venue for peace talks before the group took power in 2021.

“It will not be an easy job, but it is important to keep trying until we see real change happening on the ground in Afghanistan,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Speaking on disagreements with allies, Prince Faisal cited of last year’s row with the US over the OPEC+ decision to reduce oil output targets.

“Oil price stability showed the kingdom was correct in its position. We have a strong partnership with the US but that does not mean we will always agree,” he said.

Prince Faisal said the world's top oil exporter has a responsibility to continue that stability and that Riyadh would speak to Washington and work through any issues.

He said Saudi Arabia was committed to a clean energy future but that there was also a need for reliability in traditional forms of energy.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 5:48 AM