DOHA - Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is in Tehran on Sunday amid regional tensions following the US killing of Iranian commander and Iran accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner.
According to several sources, the reason for the visit is for the Emir of Qatar to offer President Hassan Rouhani $3 billion in compensation for the 176 passengers who lost their lives following Iran’s admission that it shot down the Ukraine-bound aircraft after mistaking it for a ‘hostile target’.
In a statement, Sheikh Tamim was quoted by the Iranian presidency as saying that "Qatar will not forget Iran's position on the sanctions imposed on Doha,” in a tacit nod of acknowledgment for past Iranian support. .
Despite being close to the United States, even hosting Washington’s largest Middle East base, Qatar also enjoys strong ties with Iran, with whom it shares the world’s largest gas field.
Doha’s relationship with Tehran has been a primary contributor to tensions with former Gulf allies the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Tamim is set to meet with President Hassan Rouhani and other top Iranian leaders to discuss regional affairs and bilateral issues.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani reportedly called for a peaceful solution that would lead to de-escalation during a visit to Tehran in the immediate aftermath of the US strike on January 3.
Iranians in uproar
Following Saturday’s admittance of guilt, the Iranian regime now faces uproar at home, where scores of protesters gathered for a second day to voice anger and chant slogans against authorities.
"They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here," protesters who had gathered in the street outside a university in Tehran chanted.
Iranian activists criticised the Qatari attempt to help the Iranian regime, describing it as "covering up for a crime”.
A ceremony in mourning of those who lost their lives in the plane accident quickly turned into a protest late on Saturday, with police having to disperse crowds using tear gas,.
Police also briefly detained the British ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, who attended the vigil without knowing that it would transform into an anti-government protest.
He was accused of inciting anger among demonstrators, before later tweeting ‘Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations!’.
Downing Street called the arrest a ‘flagrant violation of international law’.
“The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
The controversial visit also comes shortly after a US drone strike killed arguably Iran’s second most influential figure in Revolutionary Guard’s Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
Iran responded by firing missiles at American assets in Iraq, which US President Donald Trump said caused no casualties.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing Doha of backing extremism and being too close to Iran, charges Qatar denies.