Iran president holds phone conversation with Qatari emir over Gulf relations

Rouhani’s conversation with Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim is expected to further strain relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held a phone call with Qatar's Sheikh Tamim in which he called for improved relations with the Arab Gulf.AP Photo/Vahid Salemi
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Tehran // Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for improved relations with Gulf Arab countries during a telephone call with the emir of Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE were infuriated this week after Qatar’s state media published comments from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani critical of US and GCC policy towards Iran.

Qatar said the remarks, published late on Tuesday, were fake and that the state news agency that ran them had been hacked.

Mr Rouhani’s conversation with Sheikh Tamim is expected to further strain relations.

“The countries of the region need more cooperation and consultations to resolve the crisis in the region and we are ready to cooperate in this field,” Mr Rouhani told the Qatari ruler, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA. “In this direction we are ready for talks aimed at reaching a real agreement.”

Sheikh Tamim said in response that talks between Iran and Arab Gulf states should continue, according to Mr Rouhani’s website.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have become increasingly hostile towards Iran, which they accuse of trying to destabilise the region by stoking conflicts in Yemen and Syria and supporting terror groups.

Last weekend, during the Riyadh Summit, Donald Trump accused Tehran of supporting terrorism in the Middle East.

But Qatar said it was angered that organisations in the US had in the lead up to the summit also accused Doha of supporting extremist groups. The stories on Qatar News Agency quoting the emir appeared days after the Riyadh summit ended.

They quoted him querying US hostility towards Iran, speaking of tensions between Doha and Washington, defending Qatar’s support for Hamas and Hizbollah, and speculating that president Donald Trump might not remain in power for long.

Some Gulf states have retaliated by blocking the website of news channel Al Jazeera, which is headquartered in Doha.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in 2014 after disagreements over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

*With reporting from Agence France-Presse and Associated Press