Qatar‘s foreign minister met his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad for talks on easing tension and respecting Iraq‘s sovereignty after attacks by the US and Iran on Iraqi soil brought the region to a brink of war.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani met Mohamed Ali Alhakim on Wednesday in Baghdad and was expected to meet the speaker of the parliament, the president and the prime minister later.
Qatar is seeking to play a mediating role amid tensions that soared following a US drone strike earlier this month that killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, and senior Iraq militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iran retaliated by firing a barrage of missiles that hit two bases in Iraq where US troops are based but caused no casualties.
Tensions soared further after Iran, just hours following the missile attacks, mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that had taken off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Alhakim on Wednesday, Qatar’s FM said: “This visit comes at a critical time witnessed by Iraq and the region. My visit aims at having talks with his excellency the foreign minister of Iraq about how to keep Iraq away from conflict and how not to have Iraq as a scene for struggles.
“Tensions are all over the place and everyone, and every country will need to reduce tensions. Qatar, together with some friendly countries, is trying to decrease the tension. We have made contacts internationally for more consultations with our allies,” he said.
Alhakim welcomed Qatar’s initiative, saying: “We discussed ways to decrease tensions in our region. We have our common efforts and allies whether it’s in Iran or the United States.
“Our talks have been based on this relationship and we’ve concentrated on Iraq not being a scene for regional conflicts,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said the language used by the two diplomats at the news conference suggested that Qatar’s mediation efforts were coming together.
“Both foreign ministers kept using the words crucial and sovereignty, and also Iraq’s sovereignty,” he said.
“This is a very crucial moment in Iraq’s history. People are very worried that the US and Iran will use this as a battleground. Many Iraqis are looking to outsiders to try and help the country.”
He also said Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was in Tehran a few days ago, holding meetings with all the key players there.
“Now his foreign minister is in Baghdad. It looks like Qatar has a message to bring to the Iraqi people and the country’s leaders,” Khan said.