DOHA: Qatar is to reinstate its ambassador to Iran, its foreign ministry announced on Thursday, in a significant move at a time of diplomatic friction within the Gulf.
Qatar’s move may be seen as provocative among those countries which have cut ties, but Saudi Arabia and its allies have not yet responded.
In Bahrain, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa took to Twitter to comment on the Qatari decision.
“For the sake of history, Qatar on the same day it refused to allow its citizens to perform Haj reinstated its ambassador in a country that falsely claims support for Islam and Muslims,” he posted on his Twitter account.
A statement from the Qatari’s Foreign ministry said Qatar aimed to bolster relations with Iran, which share the world’s largest natural gasfield.
“The State of Qatar announced today that its ambassador to Tehran will return to exercise his diplomatic duties,” read the statement.
Qatar was also seeking to “strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields”, it added.
Doha pulled its ambassador from Tehran in January 2016 following attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northern city of Mashhad, spurred by Riyadh’s decision to execute a Shiite cleric in the kingdom.
The decision to restore ties comes as Qatar is locked in a diplomatic impasse with Iran’s great regional rival, Saudi Arabia, which has accused Doha of special ties to Shiite Iran and support for Sunni Islamist extremist groups. Qatar denies the accusations.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed all diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in what has become the worst political crisis to grip the Gulf region in decades.
Ironically, the crisis may have pushed Iran and Qatar closer together.
Saudi Arabia in June said that Qatar should have only trade and commerce ties with Iran that comply with US and international sanctions.
Political and business leaders in Qatar have argued that they have to maintain ties with Iran because of the gasfield, which Doha calls the North Field and in Tehran is known as South Pars.
Qatar has also turned to Iran to help food imports as previously most supplies came through Saudi Arabia, which sealed off Qatar’s only land border as part of the boycott.