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Israel Foreign Minister to Head to Qatar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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JERUSALEM, (AP) -Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni intends to travel to the Qatar next week to attend a U.N. conference, ministry officials said Wednesday, in what would be the most high-profile visit by an Israeli official to the Gulf state in 10 years.

Amira Oron, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said a final decision about Livni’s travel plans would be made in the next two days.

Earlier, an adviser said Livni already had decided to attend the U.N.-sponsored conference on democracy.

Livni would be the most senior Israeli official to visit Qatar since then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres traveled there in 1996. The Peres visit paved the way for the opening of an Israeli trade office in Doha and low-level diplomatic ties between the countries.

Earlier this week, officials said Livni might discuss the Iranian nuclear program and the fate of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas-linked militants in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar, which has low-level diplomatic ties with Israel, also has good relations with Hamas and has attempted to mediate between the sides in the past. Qatari officials were not immediately available for comment due to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

After the signing of the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians in 1993, Israel developed tentative relations with some of the Gulf Arab states, opening trade offices in Qatar and Oman in 1996.

The Omani office was closed after the eruption of Israel-Palestinian violence in September 2000, although informal contacts continued. Qatar and Israel retained low-level commercial ties.

Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab states to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, downgraded relations after the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising, protesting what they said was Israel’s excessively forceful response.