‘Combustible’ period before Joe Biden takes office could complicate plans to restart diplomacy with Iran, analysts say.
Qatar has condemned Friday’s assassination of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, calling it “a clear violation of human rights”.
Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani expressed his condolences in a phone call on Saturday with Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iranian media reported on Friday that Fakhrizadeh died in hospital after he was shot in his car in an ambush east of Tehran.
Fakhrizadeh served as the head of the research and innovation organisation of Iran’s defence ministry at the time of his death.
The West has long suspected Fakhrizadeh of being the mastermind of Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran denies he was involved in any such undertaking.
Al Thani stressed that the scientist’s murder “will only contribute to pouring more fuel on the fire at a time when the region and the international community are searching for ways to reduce tension and return to the table of dialogue and diplomacy”, Qatar news agency (QNA) reported on Saturday.
Al Thani “called for restraint,” it said.
During the call, the ministers reviewed bilateral cooperation relations and issues of common concern, QNA reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused “mercenary” Israel of killing its top scientist, state TV reported on Saturday.
Israel has declined to comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh.
The assassination comes as US President Donald Trump, who has been fervently backed by Israel in his “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, is slated to leave office in less than two months after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.
In May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran that have only escalated since.
In the past year, the Trump administration has also tried to make it harder for a Biden administration to come back to the nuclear accord through retargeting Iranian entities and individuals that were already sanctioned with new terrorism-related designations.