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Friday, October 22, 2021

Qatar, UK set to hold first strategic dialogue ‘soon’: envoy


Qatari investments in the UK stood at $47 billion last year.

Preparations are underway to launch the first Qatar-UK strategic dialogue, British Ambassador to Doha Jonathan Wilks state told Al-Raya.

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

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“The political dialogue between our two countries has witnessed great progress over the past two years, and consultations are continuing at the highest level of the leadership and government in our two countries,” said Wilks.

The step towards strategic dialogue, agreed in principle during former British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s visit to the Gulf state last month, would strengthen Doha and London’s relations in political, defence, security, economic, educational and other fields.

“The Afghan file will be present in addition to other important files in the region, and of course the economic and investment file,” Wilks said, highlighting the environment, and combating climate change are also priorities.

The dialogue to take place on an annual basis, he added.

Meanwhile, the British official also commended Qatar’s “vital role” in Afghanistan by facilitating evacuations for thousands of Afghans and foreigners since the Taliban takeover last month.

In the wake of the developments, the UK requested to move its embassy from Kabul to Doha to continue carrying out its diplomatic operations remotely.

“There is no alternative to Qatar. Of course, there are many countries neighbouring Afghanistan and they have an important role in various fields, but the role of Qatar was very vital to the world, and therefore this cooperation will continue,” he said.

He also told the Qatari newspaper that visits between Qatari and British officials are expected to take place soon, pointing towards a UN Conference on Climate Change expected to be held in Glasgow next month.

“The situation is very encouraging with the lifting of travel restrictions, which means many reciprocal visits during the next two months,” said Wilks.

Responding to a question regarding Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and its impact on its relations with Qatar, Wilks claimed it gave his country more freedom to sign new memoranda with several countries, including Qatar.

“For Britain, the Gulf markets as an economic bloc are among the most important in the world and occupy the fourth place for British exports after the European Union, America and China. There are great investment relations in Qatar and Britain,” he said.

Qatar and the UK’s trade witnessed a drop in 2020 amid 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.

“We are ready to expand trade and investment relations with all Gulf countries, but the positive developments in Qatar are very large and very rapid and have opened up new and promising opportunities,” added Wilks.

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