U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Qatar on Monday to watch a World Cup game and hold talks.
The top American diplomat visits the Gulf state as regional tensions remain high amid the rapid advance of Iran's nuclear program and protests that are shaking the Islamic Republic.
Blinken, a soccer fan and player himself, will attend the match between the U.S. and Wales on Monday night at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium. He will also hold crucial diplomatic talks with authorities in Qatar, one of the United States' trusted interlocutors with Iran. Doha shares a huge offshore natural gas field with Tehran.
Iran has also provided air routes for Qatar Airways flights and supplied food shipments to Qatar, as four Arab countries have been boycotting Doha for years.
Blinken's visit is part of a strategic dialogue with Qatar, which also hosts some 8,000 American troops at its gigantic Al-Udeid air base, which is the forward headquarters of the Central Command of the U.S. Army. The base served as a critical node during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and the evacuation of Afghan civilians.
"Qatar is an important and steadfast partner of the United States, and the ties between the United States and Qatar continue to grow stronger," said Daniel Benaim, assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula affairs at the Department of State, before Blinken's voyage.
“Together, we have made significant progress on a range of issues, including facilitating the travel of Afghans at risk to the United States, strengthening regional security and expanding commercial investment ties between our countries,” he added.
Iran is one of the main topics of discussion. Non-proliferation experts say Iran now has a sufficient supply of 60 percent enriched uranium as Tehran insists its program is peaceful. Also, Iran is rocked by months-long protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was arrested earlier by the country's vice squad.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.