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Sunday, December 5, 2021

New UK foreign minister visits Qatar in bid to boost economic, security ties


The UK diplomat is launching the strategic dialogue.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss arrived in Qatar on Thursday on a bilateral visit that aims to boost economic and security ties between the UK and the Gulf state.

“Closer security and economic ties with Gulf allies will help us deliver jobs and opportunities for people back in the UK and ensure as friends and partners that we are operating from a position of strength in the world,” said Truss on Wednesday.

On her first such trip to Doha since taking up her new post as FM, Truss and her delegation met with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss issues of common concern as well as relations between the two allies, announcing the annual Strategic Dialogue between Qatar and the UK is scheduled for 2022.

According to a statement by the Amiri Diwan, cooperation between Doha and London in light of the latest developments in Afghanistan was also at the top of the agenda.

During her trip, Truss is scheduled to visit Park View Compound, the housing facility temporarily hosting Afghan and foreign evacuees.

Qatar has taken on a leading role to facilitate evacuations from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August, with over 50,000 evacuated from the country so far.

On Monday, 17 British nationals departed Afghanistan, adding to more than 100 UK citizens that have already been evacuated since 31 August.

Doha is the second leg of Truss’s Gulf tour after visiting Saudi Arabia and meeting with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud.

Qatar-UK dialogue

Following the meeting between Truss and her Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the two officials announced that the annual Strategic Dialogue between Qatar and the UK will kick off in the first quarter of 2022 in London.

“The Strategic Dialogue highlights the strength of their bilateral relationship and the mutually beneficial opportunities for the peoples of both countries to deepen cooperation,” said Qatar’s foreign ministry.

Speaking ahead of her visit, Truss said: “I want a closer trading and investment relationship with the Gulf and for us to collaborate more closely on issues like intelligence sharing, development, security and defence”.

Last month, British Ambassador to Doha Jonathan Wilks state told Qatar’s Al-Raya newspaper that preparations were underway to kick off the first Qatar-UK strategic dialogue.

Wilks told the Qatari daily that both countries have agreed to hold meetings between working groups to prepare for the strategic dialogue, which foreign ministers from Doha and London would head.

The step towards holding such a dialogue was agreed in principle during former British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s visit to the Gulf state in September, shortly before he resigned and was replaced by Truss.

A free trade deal with the GCC is also in the works to further deepen economic ties between the UK and the regional bloc by creating new opportunities for exports and mutual investments.

London’s trade with the GCC currently stands at more than $34 billion [£30 billion].

On Thursday, the UK government said Truss’ visit aims to push forward the Build Back Better World Initiative, led by G7 leaders in June, to fill the gaps in the infrastructure of low and middle-income countries hit by Covid-19.

Last week, UK-government owned CDC Group announced a partnership with Dubai’s DP World to modernise three ports in Senegal, Somaliland and Egypt.

“This should be a win-win-win deal for the UK, the Gulf, and countries across Africa and Asia that will create jobs, improve lives, and benefit British and Gulf businesses operating in the region,” said Truss.

Qatar and the UK’s trade witnessed a drop in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with its value reaching $2.5 billion by the end of the third quarter of the same year.

However, this has since changed, with Wilks noting bilateral trade is expected to reach over $5.9 billion [£4.4 billion] before the end of this year.

On the other hand, the Gulf state’s investments in the UK stood at $47 billion by the end of 2020.

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