Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah has criticized Iran for continuing to support Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.

More work must be done to build confidence on both sides, including on the issue of “interfering in other countries’ internal affairs,” the minister said.

For the GCC, that means a rollback of Iran’s longstanding support for militant proxies, such as Hezbollah, and other groups, including Yemen’s Houthi terrorists, that enjoy Tehran’s backing.

“We are all in the GCC working toward a good neighborhood. We want also Iran to take this approach as well, and only then we can have a fruitful dialogue,” Al-Attiyah said.

One major area of disagreement remains Iran’s support for President Bashar Assad, who remains in power after more than four years of civil war that has left at least 250,000 Syrians dead, according to UN figures.

“We wish that Iran looked at Syria through the (eyes of the) Syrian people and not through the brutal regime,” Al-Attiyah said.

He also called for a “serious dialogue” with Iran in the wake of its nuclear deal with world powers.

Al-Attiyah made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.
Al-Attiyah spoke a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry met with GCC foreign ministers in Qatar.

Al-Attiyah said a “firm agreement between the major players and Iran” was the best way to resolve the nuclear issue. And he suggested there was now scope to work with Iran on other topics too.

“We should have a serious dialogue with our neighbor, the Iranians, and … lay down our concerns from both sides, and solve them together. Iran is our neighbor in the region,” he said.

Al-Attiyah hit back at the barrage of international criticism directed at Qatar over the World Cup football tournament, saying racism played a role.

Al-Attiyah reiterated Qatar’s stance that it has cooperated with investigators and will continue to do so.

He said he was confident the games would go ahead and will be “the best World Cup ever.”

He said: “Some parties cannot digest that a small, Arabic state … is hosting such an event, as if our region, our Arab region is not entitled to have such an event.”

Al-Attiyah acknowledged that more work needs to be done to improve conditions for migrant laborers working on World Cup infrastructure and other construction projects in Qatar.

Al-Attiyah said he expected the new guidelines will be put in place by the end of the year.

“It is on the right track, and it will happen. We are serious about doing reforms,” he said.

Arab News – 05 August, 2015