TEHRAN: The Amir of Qatar on Thursday accused the Zionist entity over the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a Zionist army raid in the occupied West Bank. Abu Akleh was "killed by the (Zionist) occupation forces", Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at a joint news conference in Tehran with Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi. "We must hold the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable," the Qatari leader added.

Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old Palestinian-American, was shot dead on Wednesday as she covered the Zionist military operation in the Jenin refugee camp. The Qatar-based pan-Arab television channel charged that Zionist forces had killed her deliberately "in cold blood". Zionist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had said Wednesday it was "likely" Abu Akleh was killed by stray Palestinian gunfire, but Defense Minister Benny Gantz later conceded it could have been "the Palestinians who shot her" or fire from "our side".

Calls have mounted around the world for an independent investigation into the shooting. But the Palestinians have turned down an Zionist offer to carry out a joint probe, saying they would investigate alone and share their findings. The Iranian president also implicated the Zionist entity, the sworn enemy of the Islamic republic. "We are certain that these crimes cannot bring security to the Zionist regime. To the contrary, they will only increase popular anger" towards the Zionist entity, Raisi said.

Sheikh Tamim met Raisi in Tehran as an EU envoy held a second day of meetings with Iran's chief negotiator Ali Bagheri in the Iranian capital. The meetings come as talks between world powers and Iran on restoring a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, have been on a pause since mid-March.

The JCPOA was torpedoed in 2018 by then US president Donald Trump's unilateral decision to withdraw from the deal and impose a punishing sanctions regime. Qatar, a close US ally, has added the Iran nuclear dispute to its list of diplomatic hotspots where it has taken a behind-the-scenes mediation role.

"Regarding the negotiations taking place in Vienna, Qatar always looks at them positively," Sheikh Tamim said during the joint news conference with Raisi, adding that "the only solution to any disagreement is by peaceful means and dialogue". "We are, God willing, pushing all the parties towards" reaching an agreement that is "fair" for everyone, said the Qatari Amir.

Raisi did not raise the nuclear issue during the news conference, but he cautioned against the meddling of any foreign country in the region. "Any interference of western and foreign countries in the region not only can't ensure security but will also be harmful to regional security," he said.

The Amir's one-day visit came as the EU's nuclear talks coordinator, Enrique Mora, continued discussions with Bagheri in Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported. An EU spokesman said Mora was seeking to rescue the nuclear deal. "It's in the interest and it's the role of the coordinator actually to do everything he can in order to save this agreement," said Peter Stano. Mora "is in Tehran exactly to move these talks forward, to be able to go back to Vienna and to conclude them in a positive way," he added.

Among the key sticking points in the negotiations is Tehran's demand for the United States to remove Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a designated list of terror groups. IRNA said "unfreezing Iran's assets, cooperation in holding the 2022 World Cup, pursuing prisoner exchanges and cooperation in the field of energy" were also on the agenda of the emir's visit.

Unlike some of its Gulf Arab neighbors, Qatar has maintained close relations with Iran and the two countries share the world's largest natural gas. Tehran has expressed interest in hosting spectators for football's World Cup finals in Qatar in November on its nearby resort island of Kish. It is waiving visa fees for visitors in the hope of attracting fans to the island. Sheikh Tamim thanked Iran for its "cooperation and support for the success of this competition". - AFP