New York: Qatar is prepared to take on the role of an international mediator in the wake of the recent Doha-brokered prisoner swap deal between Iran and the US, the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said on Wednesday.
“Our job as mediator is to make sure that prisoners come back home and the humanitarian channel is secure; secure in a way that would guarantee the Iranians would be able to use it, and secure in the way that it would not be used for anything that would fall under US sanctions,” Al-Ansari said at the Middle East Global Summit in New York.
Al-Ansari also serves as an advisor to Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani.
He added that the prisoner swap, during which five dual Iranian-US citizens were traded for five Iranians held in America on charges of violating US sanctions, was carried out with many safeguards to ensure that funds would not be used for nefarious purposes. The final part of the deal included the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds, which was sent to banks in Doha.
Al-Ansari also referenced other examples of Qatar’s efforts to play a mediating role, including in the conflicts in Darfur, Djibouti, Eritrea, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Qatar also acted as a mediator during and after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, Al-Ansari said. While Qatar’s role met with some criticism, the spokesperson says that engagement with the Taliban was preferable to isolation.
“We understand the situation is not easy for the international community to engage. But complete isolation is not the solution. It didn’t work, and it won’t work. It will push the government there into the hands of other states which are not interested in human rights for women and children in Afghanistan,” he said.
He added that the Qatari prime minister’s meeting with the leader of the Taliban in Kandahar was the first-ever talks between that nation’s leadership and a foreign official.
Regarding trade, and specifically the dominant role of China internationally, Al-Ansari stated that it would be impossible to isolate Beijing.
“China is one of the biggest producers in the world. We will always need it and it will always need us.” However, he said, “we shouldn’t allow economic pressure to be used in political matters. Energy should not be weaponized. Trade should not be weaponized.”