Qatar’s separate talks with Iran, US on drones, nuclear programme: Report

The reported meetings took place this week in New York on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

US Ambassador to Qatar, Timmy Davis, welcomes prisoners who were released during a prisoner swap deal between U.S. and Iran
US Ambassador to Qatar, Timmy Davis, welcomes prisoners released during a prisoner swap deal between the US and Iran, arrive at Doha airport [File: Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters]

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Qatar held separate talks with Iran and the United States on Iran’s nuclear programme and US concerns about Iranian drone transfers to Russia, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

Two sources told the agency on Wednesday that the meetings took place on Monday and Tuesday in New York, US.

One of the sources, a diplomat in the Middle East briefed on the matter, said more talks would be held this week and that the meetings were “talks for talks” to lay a foundation for an “understanding” on the nuclear issue.

Both sources said the talks differed from the recent diplomacy Qatar conducted that led to Monday’s Iran-US prisoner swap.

At the time of publishing, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have amplified since at least 2018 when then-President Donald Trump shuttered the end of a 2015 deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear prowess and ramped up US sanctions.

The prisoner swap and the unfreezing of $6bn in Iranian funds this week was a rare thaw.

When probed if there will be Iran-US talks this week, US officials did not deny the possibility.

“When it comes to perhaps the number-one issue of concern, which is Iran’s nuclear programme, we continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to get a sustainable, effective result,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

“We’ll continue to see if there are opportunities for that. In this moment, we’re not engaged on that, but we’ll see in the future if there are opportunities,” he added.

According to analysts, while the prisoner exchange was a step towards de-escalating tensions between the longtime antagonists, it will not lead to a big change in relations.

Just a few days before the prisoner swap, the US imposed sanctions on dozens of Iranian officials and entities over human rights abuses during antigovernment protests in Iran last year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies