Qatar will not normalize relations with Israel unless a comprehensive Middle East peace is reached, a top Qatari official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
"Relations depend on comprehensive Middle East peace, including that on the Syrian track. At the moment relations are frozen," the official told Reuters.
He said a meeting on Friday in New York between Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was "intended to encourage the peace process."
Qatar allowed Israel to open a trade office in 1996, as did Oman, said the agency.
But it joined Oman in freezing steps towards normalization in 1997 over what the two states saw as hard-line Israeli policies and the stalling of the peace process.
Barak aides said after the meeting in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations Millennium Summit, that the two leaders pledged to continue cultivating relations between Israel and Qatar "under any circumstances."
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabr al-Thani told the Qatari al-Jazeera satellite television after the meeting that the emir stressed to Barak the "importance of reaching a solution with the Palestinians, as well as the importance of holy Jerusalem for us as Arabs and Muslims."
He said the emir also stressed the need for just peace with the Palestinians and Syria, Reuters added.
He said Qatar wanted at the meeting to urge Israel to reach a "solution and to tell Israel that there are Arabs who are prepared to extend their hands to Israel if a just and fair solution is reached with the Arabs."
Qatar organized in 1997 the fourth economic conference for the Middle East and North Africa with the participation of an Israeli delegation led by the then minister of commerce and industry, Nathan Sharansky, reported AFP.
Israeli former prime minister Shimon Peres also attended the conference - (Several Sources)
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