Doha, Aug 24

Qatar on Thursday announced it will restore full diplomatic relations with Iran, in a move that will infuriate the country's Arab neighbours and could deepen the region's worst diplomatic crisis in decades.

"The state of Qatar expressed its aspirations to strengthen bilateral relations with Iran in all fields," the Qatari Foreign Ministry was cited as saying by CNN.

The countries' Foreign Ministers spoke on the phone and discussed "bilateral relations" as well as a "number of issues of common concern", the statement said, adding Qatar's Ambassador will return to Iran to exercise "diplomatic duties".

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar and cut off land, sea and air travel to the country in June, accusing it of sponsoring terrorism and cosying up to the Iranian regime.

The Arab quartet accused Iran of interfering in Arab countries' internal affairs and said Tehran's growing influence destabilised the region and bolstered the cause of radical groups like Islamic State.

Cutting ties with Tehran was a key demand put on Qatar by its four Arab neighbours in return for lifting a boycott that has roiled the Middle East. Other demands were cutting ties to terrorist organisations, reducing Turkey's military footprint in the country, and shuttering media network Al Jazeera.

But Qatar ignored an initial 10-day deadline to respond to the demands and continued to seek a diplomatic solution.

Doha has struggled to cope with its neighbours' embargo, relying on close ally Turkey and neighbouring Iran and Oman for imports of food and construction materials.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir last month said the quartet was willing to negotiate, but "dialogue doesn't mean there are concessions".

 

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