ROME -- Qatar's foreign minister said Friday that his country remains committed to the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, and that progress on that front would need to be “at the core” of any agreement to normalize relations with Israel.
There was speculation that Qatar — which already cooperates with Israel in providing aid to the Gaza Strip — might be the next Arab country to normalize relations after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan established diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this year.
But the foreign minister said Qatar remains committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which Arab countries would recognize Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
The foreign minister noted that his country has a “working relationship” with Israel to provide aid to Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
“But for the full normalization, I believe that the (Palestinian issue) needs to be at the core of any agreement of normalization between Qatar and Israel,” he said.
The wealthy Gulf country's aid to Gaza has provided a lifeline to the territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power. It has also been a key element in a shaky, informal truce that has prevented any major outbreaks of fighting in recent years. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars — the most recent in 2014 — as well as countless smaller skirmishes.
The normalization agreements with Israel, brokered by the United States, were widely seen as a breakthrough in Mideast diplomacy. But the Palestinians condemned the agreements as a betrayal because they marked a major erosion in Arab support for their cause, a key source of leverage in any future peace talks.