Iran has declared its full backing of Gulf state Qatar against a Saudi-led blockade, declaring that it can ensure the supply of essential provisions to Doha.
Abbas Maroufan, an official in the Government Trading Corporation, said Iran can support the food requirements of “10 countries like Qatar”. He said that the Islamic Republic will step up supplies as soon as a request is received.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and other state cut links with Qatar almost two weeks ago in a dispute over cyber-warfare, propaganda, and Doha’s relations with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Palestine’s Hamas. Riyadh imposed an air and sea blockade to apply economic pressure.
Qatar has imported more than 90% of its food in recent years. However, the loss of provisions from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including vegetables and dairy products, have been placed by products from Turkey and Iran with Oman soon to follow.
Officials in Tehran said this week that at least five planeloads of food supplies each weighing 100 tonnes have been sent to Doha, and that a sent ship was dispatched on Wednesday with 180 tons of fruit and vegetables. They asserted that at least 45 tons of dairy products can be shipped.
Qatar has tried to serve as a broker for links between Iran and other states, including efforts for the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers and for engagement between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.
However, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which cut diplomatic links in January 2016, have worsened furthered in the past month. The Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman has said that any battles will be fought inside the Islamic Republic. Iranian officials, unsettled by last week’s first Islamic State attacks inside Tehran, have accused Saudi Arabia of working with the US and Israel to support “terrorism” and pursue regime change.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Qatar’s Emir Tamim in Doha, March 8, 2017