Qatar urges Israel to heed Arab peace calls


‘The chance for peace is possible now that Arabs are extending a hand for it,’ Shaikh Hamad said, referring to a five-year-old peace initiative revived at an Arab summit in Riyadh last month.

The initiative calls for peace with Israel in return for its withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967, allowing the creation of an Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees.

‘The Israelis should realise that antagonising the Arabs and delaying the delivery of their rights is not in their interest, and that it could bring a catastrophe on to Israel,’ he said in a televised debate reported by QNA.

‘It is possible that they might face in the future an Arab generation that rejects peace with them,’ he added.

Like most Arab countries, Qatar does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but the Jewish state has a commercial interests office manned by two diplomats in Doha.

Representatives of the two countries also meet on a regular basis.

But Shaikh Hamad downplayed the economic importance of Israel’s commercial office, saying that trade between the gas-rich state and Israel did not exceed 200,000 dollars a year.

Shaikh Hamad, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, was appointed prime minister earlier this month.

In the same television debate, Qatar’s premier said the Gulf state will never take part in any attack on neighbouring Iran, amid heightening tension between the West and Teheran over its nuclear programme.

‘Iran is a friend. Qatar will never be a launch pad for any harm against Iran, either directly or indirectly,’ he said.

Qatar, a close ally of Washington, hosts two US military bases — As-Sayliyah, which served as the coalition command and control centre during the 2003 Iraq war, and Al Udeid airbase, which was used by the US Air Force during the 2001 war on Afghanistan and in the aftermath of the Iraq war.

‘There is a military agreement between Qatar and the United States which sets the rules for the use of military facilities in Qatar,’ he said.

‘This matter has been studied by the Qatari government and a clear position has been announced. Qatar will never participate in any attack on Iran,’ he added.

Western countries want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, a process used in the manufacture of nuclear fuel, over fears it could be diverted to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only wants to produce energy for peaceful purposes.

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