Foreign relations of Qatar
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Qatar achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 3 September 1971. Arab states were among the first to recognize Qatar, and the country gained admittance to the United Nations and the Arab League in the same year. Qatar established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and Communist China in 1988. The country was an early member of OPEC and a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
On the international stage, Qatar seeks to protect its own people and project influence abroad. Over the past two decades, Qatar has grown its international profile and punched above its weight in international affairs. The country is a member of numerous international organizations and maintains bilateral relations around the globe.
Qatar also uses its massive wealth to purchase influence abroad; its state-funded news media company Al Jazeera serves as an international soft power for the country. Qatar buys influence in Western countries through investments and donations. For example, the country has made large donations to the prominent Washington-based think tank, the Brookings Institution, and also purchased British retailer Harrods.
- 1 Multilateral relations
- 2 Middle East
- 3 Africa
- 4 Americas
- 5 Asia
- 6 Europe
- 7 Oceania
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013, helped establish Qatar's reputation as an influential player in Middle East politics. The first major move in this regard was the founding of Al Jazeera., a state-owned news media company.
Qatar has also cultivated close relationships with Western powers, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom. Al Udeid Air Base hosts American and British air forces. Qatar has invested extensively in London real estate, and the country has also made donations to prominent research centers in the United States. At the same time, Qatar maintains ties to Western adversaries, including Iran, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and extremist elements in Syria.
Qatar has a population of around 1.8 million people, however only 280,000 of these are citizens. The vast majority of the population are migrant laborers who suffer severe human rights abuses including unfit living conditions, abuse by employers, and seizure of passports and other immigration documents. These human rights abuses have caused tensions between Qatar and liberal western democracies. It is also one of the few countries in which citizens do not have to pay any taxes.
According to American sociologist and historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein, Qatar is seeking to become a major regional player in Middle East politics. As such, the country played a crucial role in the Libyan Civil War by providing military backing and equipment, media endorsement through Al Jazeera, and diplomatic support by being the second country to recognize the National Transitional Council as the official government of Libya. Wallerstein has argued that Qatar aimed to do the same in the Syrian Civil War, and has provided support to extremist elements in Syria. According to Wallerstein, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are competing for influence in regional politics.
Qatar has been influential in political and religious upheavals in the Middle East. Qatar supported several rebel groups during the Arab Spring financially and by asserting global influence through its expanding news group, Al Jazeera.
Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood and allied groups throughout the Middle East, as well as positions taken by Al Jazeera have led to increasing tensions with other Gulf States. On 5 March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in protest at what they claimed was Qatar's non-compliance with a November 2013 agreement not to "interfere" in countries' internal affairs.
Some financial economists have interpreted the 2014 Saudi-Qatari rift as the tangible political sign of a growing economic rivalry between oil and natural gas producers, which could “have deep and long-lasting consequences” beyond the Middle East.
When the ambassadors withdrew, the GCC was probably already on the verge of a crisis linked to the emergence of distinct political blocs with conflicting interests. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain were beginning to engage in a political struggle with Qatar, while Oman and Kuwait represent a non-aligned bloc within the GCC.
Islam Hassan, Research Analyst at Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, claims that, with the resolution of the GCC crisis and the return of the ambassadors to Doha, Qatar reached a new level of political maturity. He asserts that Qatar managed to bring an end to the crisis without changing any of its foreign policy principles or abandoning its allies.
Peace brokering and peacekeeping activities
Qatar has a history of attempting peace brokering and peacekeeping activities. Historian and businessmen Mohamed Al-Thani traces this tradition back to the founder of modern Qatar, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, who united the tribes of the peninsula during a period when Ottoman, Wahhabi (Saudi) and British powers were competing to control the region.
The Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani initiated a foreign policy that saw Qatar switch from quiet backwater to regional mediator. During his rule Qatar played an active role in finding resolutions to disputes in Israel-Palestine, Sudan, Djibouti-Eritrea, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
The onset of the Arab spring in January 2011 complicated Qatar’s ability to mediate having forced Gulf leaders to side with revolutionaries or the longstanding autocratic regimes. Sheikh Hamad stated in that Qatar would support the uprisings, a position that clashed with neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar provided extensive support, in funding and weapons, to Libyan revolutionaries and aided in the removal of Muammar Gaddafi by mobilising Arab support behind NATO airstrikes. In Egypt, Qatar supported President Mohamed Morsi and has suffered from strained relations with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi following Morsi’s removal. In Syria, Qatar has provided arms and funding to various opposition groups.
Starting in 2013 Qatar was accused of financing Islamic extremists in Syria, a charge which has been refuted by Emir Sheikh Tamim on CNN and by Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Attiyah in an opinion piece in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. According to the Royal United Services Institute, Qatar plays an important role in Syria and Iraq as an interlocutor between Western powers and resistant groups that cannot be engaged directly. This role is consistent with Qatar’s efforts as an interlocutor with the Taliban in Afghanistan, hosting a small Embassy in Doha where US officials are able to meet with the Taliban behind closed doors.
Prior to the abdication of Emir Sheikh Hamad, Qatar’s mediation was fronted by the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmad Abdullah Al Mahmud. On 4 May 2009, the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmad Abdullah Al Mahmud announced that Chad and Sudan had agreed to end hostilities against each other and to normalize relations during Qatari-mediated talks in Doha; however the agreement quickly broke down. Qatar also brokered an agreement between the Sudanese government and the strongest Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, in Doha in February 2010. The agreement fell apart in May 2010 and the conflict is ongoing.
Qatar hosted a donors conference to help rebuild war-ravaged Darfur in April 2013.
In June 2010, Qatari peacekeeping forces deployed in the disputed Ras Doumeira area on the border between Djibouti and Eritrea after the latter withdrew from the area. The intention was to help start bilateral negotiations and solve the territorial dispute which had turned violent.
Cultural and religious activities
In a controversial bidding process marred by bribery and corruption scandals, Qatar was selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar will be the first Middle Eastern country to host the popular international sporting event. Qatar-funded Qatar Airways has gone on an aggressive expansion campaign by competing with nearby Emirates Airline to reach more destinations and serve more passengers.
The sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly was presided over by former permanent representative of Qatar to the UN Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. The country has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
In September 2013, Qatar funded 70% of a US$16 million mosque to be built in Slovenia (the only mosque in that country). It is due for completion in 2016. Due to its natural resource revenue and low indigenous population, Qatar has been able to take bold moves in expanding its global presence, particularly its regional role following the Arab Spring funding the oppositions in the Libyan Civil War and the Syrian civil war, as well as the Islamist government of Egypt (which was opposed by other fellow GCC states).
According to the UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service, Qatar’s international aid increased from less than $10 million annually in the pre-Arab Spring period to the hundreds of millions following the event.
For example in 2012, according to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country donated more than QAR3 billion (or c. £524 million) through governmental and non-governmental aid to nearly 100 countries across the globe.
Qatari leadership has since pledged publicly to reduce suffering of victims and to achieve and support global partnerships for the achievement of foreign countries’ Millennium Development Goals. The state is engaged in investments in a wide range of humanitarian and developmental sectors.
The territorial dispute with Bahrain over the Hawar Islands and the maritime boundary dispute with Bahrain were solved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. In the 2001 decision, Bahrain kept the Hawar Islands and Qit'at Jaradah but dropped claims to Janan Island and Zubarah on mainland Qatar, while Qatar retained significant maritime areas and their resources.
On 5 March 2014, Bahrain withdrew its ambassadors from Qatar to protest Qatar's non-compliance with a November 2013 agreement not to "interfere" in countries' internal affairs. The widely accepted cause for this move was Qatar’s support for the organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar and Iran have close ties. Both are members of OPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Unlike fellow GCC member states Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Qatar generally refrains from criticizing Iran’s domestic and foreign activities. Qatar has also held several high-level meetings with Iranian officials to discuss security and economic agreements.
Iran and Qatar have a close economic relationship, particularly in the oil and gas industries. Iran and Qatar jointly control the world’s largest gas field. In addition to ties in the oil and natural gas arena, Iran and Qatar also cooperate in the shipping sector.
Following the 1990–91 Gulf War, in which Qatar and Iraq were on opposing sides, Qatar closed their embassy in Baghdad. They reopened the embassy for the first time twenty-five years in mid-2015. In September 2015, Qatar appointed its ambassador to Iraq.
Qatar established trade relations with the State of Israel in 1996. In January 2008 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani in Switzerland, at the Davos Economic Forum. The existence of the surreptitious talks has so far been kept secretive by Israel. Despite Qatar's support of Hamas and its good relations with Hezbollah, Israeli leaders have maintained direct contact with the emirate. In January 2007, in his last months as vice premier, Shimon Peres paid a high-profile visit to the capital city of Doha. Peres also visited Qatar in 1996, when he launched the new Israeli trade bureau there.
Following the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Qatar hosted an emergency conference of Arab states and Iran to discuss the conflict. The Hamas administration in Gaza, as opposed to the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, represented the Palestinians, undermining support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Khalid Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and President Ahmadinejad of Iran urged all Arab states to cut any remaining ties to Israel.
In 2010, Qatar twice offered to restore trade relations with Israel and allow the reinstatement of the Israeli mission in Doha, on condition that Israel allow Qatar to send building materials and money to Gaza to help rehabilitate infrastructure, and that Israel make a public statement expressing appreciation for Qatar's role and acknowledging its standing in the Middle East. Israel refused, on the grounds that Qatari supplies could be used by Hamas to build bunkers and reinforced positions from which to fire rockets at Israeli cities and towns, and that Israel did not want to get involved in the competition between Qatar and Egypt over the Middle East mediation.
On 30 April 2013, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said that final status agreements with the Palestinians could involve land swaps instead of sticking to the 1967 borders. This was received positively in Israel with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni saying: "This news is very positive. In the tumultuous world around ... it could allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the needed compromises and it sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians", adding that "peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis is ... a strategic choice for the Arab states".
Qatar mediated negotiations between leading Lebanese political parties in 2008 during the backdrop of the 2006–08 Lebanese protests. The Doha Agreement was signed by all parties in May after five days of negotiations, resolving the crisis.
In 2010, the Qatari emir became the first Arab leader to tour South Lebanon and view the various projects it funded following the 2006 Lebanon War. He financed the reconstruction of a hospital in Bint Jbeil and a nearby mosque and church, while accompanied by Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.
In September 1992, tensions arose between Qatar and Saudi Arabia when Saudi forces allegedly attacked a Qatari border post, resulting the death of two Qatari soldiers and the imprisonment of a third. Since the event relations have improved, a joint commission has been set up to demarcate the border as agreed between the two governments. Most, but not all, of the border issues have now been resolved.
On 5 March 2014, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassadors from Qatar to protest Qatar's non-compliance with a November 2013 agreement not to "interfere" in countries' internal affairs. The widely accepted cause for this move was Qatar’s support for the extremist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.
During the Syrian Civil War, Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and western states, vocally and materially supported the rebels with arms and funds against the government. Qatar has been the biggest sponsor of opposition forces during the civil war.
United Arab Emirates
In 1995, after Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his father to become emir of Qatar, UAE granted asylum to the deposed Khalifa bin Hamad. Qatar accused UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, of plotting against the new emir, to which the accused countries denied all charges. Several hundred arrests were made in relation to the incident throughout the next two years, and in February 1996, the Qatar Amiri Guard was mobilized.
UAE was one of the three countries which withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in 2014.
Bilateral relations first began with Egypt in 1972. Lately, relations have not been at its best. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, has described the 2013 political transition in Egypt as a "military coup". It is worth mentioning that the main problem between the two governments is the Qatari support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The two countries formally established diplomatic ties in 1970.
- Qatar has an embassy in Washington, D.C. and consulates-general in Houston, Los Angeles and New York.
- United States has an embassy in Doha.
During the waning years of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 the United States and the Taliban initiated exploratory talks in regards to ending the conflict in Afghanistan after the latter announced its intention to open an office in Doha. Though they were halted later amid Taliban accusations of malfeasance by the United States, president Hamid Karzai claimed the two parties held daily talks in Qatar, although the U.S.and the Taliban denied it.
In December 2011, Afghanistan recalled their envoy from Qatar in protest of the newly opened Taliban office. An Afghan government official later claimed that Qatar had not consulted with them prior to the inauguration of the office.
India and Qatar signed a maritime defence agreement and an information-sharing agreement in November 2008. As part of these agreements, the inaugural India-Qatar Joint Committee on Defence Co-operation meeting was hosted in the Qatari capital Doha in 2008. This was followed by a second meeting in New Delhi in 2011 and a third meeting in Doha in 2013.
On 8 March 2015, Qatari foreign minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah and his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se signed a memorandum of understanding entailing joint diplomatic training between the Diplomatic Institute of Qatar and the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and South Korean president Park Geun-hye attended the signing ceremony held in Doha. The agreement stipulated the exchange of information regarding diplomatic training, and the extension of opportunities for diplomats to attend educational seminars hosted by the other side.
France maintains an embassy in Doha, while Qatar maintains an embassy in Paris. The first bilateral agreement was signed in 1974. Qatar is an associate member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Qatar and France share strong economic and military ties. France and Qatar have had a defense pact since 1994, and approximately 80% of Qatar's military equipment is imported from France. In May 2015, French President François Hollande and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani signed an agreement for Qatar to purchase 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets to be used for reconnaissance missions.
In 2012, Qatar became France's seventh largest customer and sixth largest supplier in the Near East. Exports from France focus mainly on the supply of capital goods, deliveries of Airbus aircraft, and trade. Qatar's sovereign wealth fund holds stakes in Vivendi, Lagardère Group, and Vinci SA.
The history of bilateral relations between Qatar and Turkey date back to the 1970s. In the 1980s, the two nations began signing bilateral agreements with one another. Relations gained further traction in the 2000s with the signing of a further number of bilateral agreements.
Qatar and Turkey share similar positions on the Syrian Civil War and the Egyptian Crisis. The two formed a single bloc in the Syrian Civil War and supported the same rebel groups. In the Egyptian Crisis, both Turkey and Qatar were opposed to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's leadership. Their coordination in regional politics has been described as an alliance. It was announced that Turkey and Qatar agreed to establish a cooperation council called 'High-level Strategic Cooperation Council' on January 19, 2015.
On 2 December 2015, during a Turkish presidential visit to Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad and Tayyip Erdoğan announced the planned creation of a Turkish military base in Qatar; a first for Turkey in the Persian Gulf.
- List of diplomatic missions in Qatar
- List of diplomatic missions of Qatar
- Territorial disputes in the Persian Gulf
- Visa requirements for Qatari citizens
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So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an "open jail".
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