Rouhani blasts blockade on Qatar

Iranian President says his country wants to bolster ties with Qatar, criticizes Saudi-led blockade of the emirate.

Ben Ariel ,

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday said his country wants to bolster ties with Qatar and criticized a Saudi-led blockade of the emirate.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, severed relations with Qatar earlier this month over allegations that it supports terrorism. Qatar denies the charges.

"Iran's policy is to develop more and more its relations with Doha," Rouhani said on Sunday in a phone conversation with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, according to AFP.

"Tehran stands alongside the people and government of Qatar and we believe that... pressure, threats and sanctions are not a good solution to solve problems" between countries of the region, Rouhani added.

In addition to severing ties, the Gulf states have also closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate's only land border, which is vital for its food imports.

Shiite-dominated Iran, an arch-rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, has stepped in by shipping to Qatar tonnes of fruit and vegetables.

"Helping Qatar economically and developing ties, particularly in the private sectors of both countries, could be a common goal," Rouhani said on Sunday, according to AFP.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including Egypt, last week issued 13 demands which they want Qatar to meet in return for an end to the crisis.

The demands include the closure of the Al-Jazeera news channel and downgrading ties with Tehran. Qatar has rejected those conditions as unreasonable.

The crisis is believed to have started after the Qatar News Agency on May 24 published comments attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in which he allegedly described Iran as an "Islamic power", criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's policy towards Tehran and claimed his country’s relations with Israel were good.

Qatar immediately dismissed the remarks and said the website of its news agency was hacked. Last week, it accused "neighboring countries" which cut ties with it of being behind the hacking.