Talks Between Saudi Arabia and Qatar Good for the Region – Iran Foreign Minister

DOHA, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Talks between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to heal their two-year rift are a good development for the whole Persian Gulf region, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday in Doha.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing terrorism and aligning itself with Iran.

Doha denies their charges and accuses its neighbours of seeking to curtail its sovereignty.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani attended an annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia last Tuesday, its highest representation at the meeting since 2017.

Asked at the Doha Forum in Qatar if the recent contact between Doha and Riyadh was good for the region, Zarif told reporters: “Of course it is.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told the same event on Saturday that there had been “small progress” in resolving the bitter dispute.

Sheikh Mohammed briefly met with Zarif in public at the forum on Sunday and sat in the audience as the Iranian foreign minister gave an address.

Kuwait and the United States have tried to mediate the rift between Qatar and its neighbours, which has undermined Washington’s efforts to confront Iran.

Mainly Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia are locked in a struggle for influence in the Persian Gulf region.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; writing by Maher Chmaytelli Editing by Gareth Jones)