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Qatar Cancels Peres Visit but Proceeds with Gas Deal

April 19, 1995
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The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar has canceled a planned visit of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres after Israeli news organizations reported the impending trip.

Peres’ visit was scheduled to take place after the Passover holiday. But in a statement released last week, Qatar said the visit was canceled because of the media leak.

Qatar hosted an Israeli delegation last year at multilateral talks on arms control. The Israeli team was headed by David Ivry, Defense Ministry director- general. Yossi Beilin, deputy foreign minister, stopped in the Qatari airport at the end of last year, on the way to Oman.

The Qatari foreign minister has also met openly a few times with Peres.

More recently, however, the country has cooled its move toward normalization of ties, adopting the stance by other Gulf states that progress first be made on the peace tracks between Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Despite the cooling of political ties, a deal to ship natural gas from Qatar to Israel will be completed “within a matter of weeks,” Qatari officials told a visiting American Jewish Committee delegation last week.

The deal with Mobil and Enron would ship gas to Israel, Jordan and Palestinian- controlled areas.

The AJCommittee delegation, the first Jewish group to visit Qatar, also reported that Qatar has closed its Arab boycott office.

The four-person delegation, led by AJCommittee President Robert Rifkind, also traveled to Bahrain and Oman last week.

Qatari officials “signaled to us that they have every intention of opening the door even future to economic relations with Israel,” said Jason Isaacson, director of AJCommittee’s Washington office.

Businessmen have begun to travel between Israel and Qatar through third countries, Isaacson said.

In terms of increasing political ties with Israel, the message conveyed to the delegation was: “The peace process must proceed first,” Isaacson said.

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