Iran’s president meets Qatar’s emir, who said his country was ready to help find an agreeable solution to nuclear talks.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has urged the United States to prove it is willing to lift sanctions in indirect talks to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact.
Raisi’s comments on Monday during a trip to Qatar come as talks continue in Vienna aimed at reviving the deal between Iran and world powers, which saw limits imposed on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
“Guarantees are essential to reach an agreement in the nuclear talks,” Raisi said at a joint news conference with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in the capital, Doha.
The US quit the deal in 2018 under former President Donald Trump, who said it was not tough enough and embarked on a campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran, including harsh new sanctions. Iran has maintained that its nuclear programme is peaceful.
The administration of President Joe Biden has sought to revive the accord in talks being closely watched by Gulf states concerned about Iran’s missiles programme and regional proxies.
Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday that “significant progress” has been made and the number of outstanding obstacles had been “considerably reduced”.
“But the problems that remain are most difficult, the most difficult and most serious to be resolved,” it added.
Qatar’s emir, whose foreign minister recently held talks in Washington and in Tehran, said his country was ready to do what it can to help bring an agreeable solution to all parties in Vienna.
Earlier, Qatar and Iran signed bilateral agreements in the first visit by an Iranian president to Doha in 11 years, during which Raisi will attend a gas exporters summit on Tuesday.
“We have today expanded our cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, infrastructure, culture and food security,” the president said.
Before heading to Qatar, Raisi expressed hope his visit would boost ties with other Gulf Arab states and stressed Iran’s status as a major oil and gas producer and founding member of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum.
Iran’s oil minister said that unilateral sanctions against members of the forum threaten global energy security and that Iran provided the best option for gas exports to east and west, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported.
Reporting from Doha, Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal said Raisi’s visit was significant on several levels, with the two leaders discussing energy, regional stability and the nuclear talks.
“This is the first visit by the Iranian president to a Gulf country. We’ve heard prior to the visit that the Iranians were open to talks between them and the Saudis – both regional powerhouses but on conflicting sides.
“The fact that they are now saying they are open to these talks, Qatar finds itself in a position where it may play mediator,” said Elshayyal.
Qatar has good ties with Iran, with which it shares a giant gas field. Tehran supported Doha after Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies imposed a boycott on Qatar in mid-2017 in a dispute over several issues, including its ties with non-Arab Turkey and Iran.
The Gulf row was resolved early last year and Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which is locked in several proxy conflicts with Iran including in Yemen, has been engaging directly with Tehran in a bid to contain tensions.
Iran has faced gas shortages at home because of record-high consumption, particularly for winter household heating, and has had to cut supplies to cement plants and other industries.