MEXICO CITY  - Qatar Airways has held preliminary discussions about establishing flights to Mexico City, the airline said on Friday, confirming that talks had taken place with the Mexican government.

Mexico's government said on Thursday the airline is interested in setting up the route due to the upcoming 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar, and given Mexico's major fan base.

Mexico's foreign ministry said the two sides aimed to see next week when they would begin follow-up talks on the route after Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the airline had signaled interest in flying to a new Mexico City airport.

"Qatar Airways confirms it held early informal discussions about flights to Mexico City with the Mexican government and both parties will remain in close contact on the matter," a Qatar Airways spokesperson said in a statement.

The airline, which earlier this week said it did not have plans to begin flying from the new Felipe Angeles International Airport, declined to say when talks would proceed or to give further details about what was under discussion.

Critics argue the new airport to the north of Mexico City is difficult to reach and was inaugurated before it was fully ready. The government rejects this. A train is scheduled to connect the facility with the capital next year.

So far, airlines such as Aeromexico, Volaris and Viva Aerobus have confirmed they will fly there.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire Editing by Nick Zieminski)