*Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs participates in seminar hosted by Johns Hopkins University’s Foreign Policy Institute
*The spread of the novel coronavirus has become a security concern for the region, and therefore all must unite to support each other
*Humanitarian and development assistance that Qatar provides globally contribute to the security and stability of the world
*Relations between Qatar and the United States are strategic and strong
*Qatar working on economic empowerment and creation of jobs and opportunities for the youth in Mena region
*International community aware that the Gulf crisis is built on lies and crimes against Qatar and its people
*Qatar believes in the GCC and its unity, but no compromise on sovereignty of member states
The Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in the US hosted HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani in a virtual seminar, on foreign policy and international diplomacy in the Gulf region.
Participating in the programme, HE Sheikh Mohamed touched on foreign policy and world diplomacy at an exceptional time, as the novel coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) has affected all countries, noting that human development is “at the core of Qatar’s home and foreign policy”. Qatar’s strategy is based on three main pillars: providing healthcare, mitigating economic and social impacts, and fulfilling Qatar’s international role, he said.
In this regard, the foreign minister stressed that the government is firmly committed to providing the highest levels of medical care to everyone, adding that over the years Qatar has made significant investments in healthcare infrastructure, as well as promoting a comprehensive approach to the health of everyone in Qatar.
HE Sheikh Mohamed said that Qatar responded strongly and effectively to fight Covid-19, including free tests, free patient care and designating a number of hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients.
“We have one of the highest test rates, so we have discovered a number of positive cases … Fortunately, and because of the strong healthcare system in our country, we have the lowest mortality rate in the world,” he added.
On the situation in the Middle East, the minister said: “As a result of planning our early crisis response, and the integrated approach of the government, we are in a strong and good position to overcome the crisis.” The situation is not all the same in the Middle East, he pointed.
In this regard, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs said: “This is the reason why Qatar’s approach to mitigate the effects of (Covid-19), addresses not only local policies, but also includes regional and international support, as the spread of the virus has become a security concern for the region, and therefore we must all unite to support each other.”
He pointed out that Qatar continues to provide support to more than 20 countries, in addition to many multilateral organisations, to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
HE the foreign minister appealed to the international community to work together to combat the pandemic and find a vaccine to prevent its spread, adding “we have organised and mobilised international humanitarian support, including donations of medical aid and supplies to the most affected countries in the Middle East including Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria and Iran”.
“Our perspective of the future is shaped by our belief in strong collective work and improving coordination to move forward… The human dimension has always been present at the core of our foreign policy because we believe that preserving human dignity and rights is part of Qatar’s foreign policy… We believe that the humanitarian and development assistance we provide worldwide contributes to the security and stability of the world … This is not limited to a specific region or religion, but it is for all humanity, and we extend our hands to all our friends.”
He stressed that it will not be possible to face the repercussions of the pandemic without co-operation and co-ordination at the highest and most comprehensive possible levels.
“In Qatar, we still believe in the power of dialogue and diplomacy … We believe that the various crises we face in the Gulf region and beyond, including this pandemic, are evidence of the urgent need for a regional security agreement that provides basic stability for the Middle East,” he said adding “instead of imposing exclusion or restrictions, we have a greater opportunity to achieve long-term security through direct cooperation and dialogue that are accountable within a regional security framework”.
He said that if every country in the Middle East joins in good faith, “then we can create an organised framework, with binding mechanisms and conflict resolution, where all countries will be held accountable for achieving peace and maintaining security”.
The minister added that in the presence of these foundational and binding principles, states in region can engage in dialogue about real threats that are similar to those “we all face today”.
In response to a question about US-Qatar relations, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that cooperation between the two countries has not been affected by anything since the beginning of the crisis, especially military cooperation, as Qatar hosts the command centre at Al-Udeid Base. “We are still continuing our efforts on regional issues, such as Afghanistan and the Doha talks that culminated in the signing of the agreement between the Taliban and the United States, and we will continue to mediate between the Afghan parties, the United States and the Taliban.”
He pointed out that Qatar has cooperated with the United States to evacuate American citizens on Qatar Airways flights, stressing, “we did not do that only with the United States. We have cooperated with other countries for the same purpose, and we provided aid to the affected states, such as New York and California, and we believe that relations between Qatar and the United States are strong and there are strategic alliances between the two countries.”
On the situation in Afghanistan, His Excellency said: “We know that the path of peace has always been a difficult and not an easy one at all .. That is why the State of Qatar has committed from the beginning and worked to ensure the coherence the negotiating process, overcome the obstacles it faced, bring the parties around the negotiating table, and to strive to reach the primary goal, which is the agreement between the parties. We have always sought to achieve consensus on the fundamental issue of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.”
Responding to a question about Qatar’s vision of the region, especially in supporting youth, he said: “We see that youth are an important resource in the Mena region, so we seek to support young people in the region, especially in the area of economic empowerment, to create jobs and opportunities for them… As an example of this, we have the ‘Silatech’ initiative that contributed to employing more than a million Arab youth in various projects.. There is also support for subprograms that we have established such as the Qatar-Tunisia Friendship Fund and the Darfur Fund, which, along with other initiatives, focus mainly on developing and creating opportunities for young generations to establish their own projects that create a productive environment for them .. We provide them with funding for the initial establishment stages and technical support in the subsequent stages … There is also another initiative that we are working on, the African Union on the issue of immigration from Africa to Europe and the issue of migrants, especially in Libya.”
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs added: “We agreed with the African Union to establish a fund to return citizens and refugees to their countries and provide them with job opportunities by financing some small and medium projects in their cities. Therefore, the main focus is on providing job opportunities for youth and providing economic opportunities for their countries… This is our approach to foreign policy, and we will continue to follow it to give young people in conflict areas hope for life. ”
On the Gulf crisis, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs underlined the international community’s awareness that the crisis is built on lies and crimes against Qatar and its people. “The international community has realised that these lies and accusations have not been proven, yet no one was held accountable, and the series of lies continues,” he said adding “since the beginning of this crisis, His Highness the Amir was very clear and decisive in his position, which is not to deal with them in the same way that they deal with us .. We have to deal with them according to our ethics and values and according to our responsibilities towards the international community. So we did not reciprocate with any measures they took against us when they blockaded and boycotted us, and prevented food and drug supplies and closed the airspace.”
He continued: “We are maintaining our stance and insisting on having positive and constructive relations with other GCC countries.. We believe in the Gulf Cooperation Council and its unity, but under one condition, which is respect for the sovereignty of all states, for international law, and for the principle of equality between states.”
In response to a question about the solution to the Gulf crisis, he said: “Qatar is open to discussion and we want to make sure that any future agreements between Qatar and other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council will ensure progress forward to protect us in the event of any future conflict and that our children in the future will not suffer from any conflict between us and other countries … This is not only in our interest, but also in the interest of the entire region. We believe that there must be an agreement that clearly states the responsibilities of each country towards the other country.”
Answering a question about Libya, he said the situation in Libya is deteriorating, pointing to many interventions in the Libyan affairs by several European and Arab countries, to support a military man who wants to rule the country by force . HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani ruled out the possibility of a solution there unless the international community recognised that it cannot deal with these conditions in light of the existence of two criteria. He criticised the international contradiction in dealing with the Libyan crisis, and clarified that, after a long silence on foreign interference in Libya, international reactions emerged only against Turkey’s intervention there.
He renewed Qatar’s support to the legitimate government in Libya, and the outputs of the Skheirat Agreement, stressing that this pact is the only way to achieve a smooth transfer of power in the country.
On Yemen, he said the result of the war that has been going on there for five years has led to the destruction of infrastructure in the country.. He further expressed regret that the situation in Yemen has deviated from the main issue that started the war , adding that the only way for Yemenis to move forward is to stop the war in the first place, and stop interference from all countries without exception, and that the Yemenis then determine the path to achieve peace.
Regarding the assistance provided to Palestine, HE the minister said: “We are helping Gaza through a clear international mechanism according to the United Nations and its agencies working there and all the aid passes through them … The United States is aware of this aid .. The people of Gaza are suffering from the siege, and therefore we are helping them from a humanitarian standpoint, and we expect the international community to consider the suffering of the people of Gaza.
“Hamas movement is an integral part of the Palestinian people, and Qatar supports the Palestinian people regardless of the political components… The state has distinct links with the Palestinian Authority as it supports its efforts .. We in
Qatar care to support the Palestinian people, whether in the West Bank or Gaza,” he said pointing to Qatar’s support for both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to fight Covid-19 pandemic.
In response to a question about Qatar hosting the World Cup, he said politics has divided everyone in the region, and expressed hope that football will restore unity among the countries of the region, adding that Qatar’s hosting of major events such as the Doha Forum is part of Qatar’s strategy, through which ties can be created with the countries of the world.
In conclusion, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs underlined the importance of creating a new regional security structure that is concerned with laws, rights, and responsibilities, adding that the region is currently going through a situation similar to the Cold War, and that the situation will become more difficult if there is no cooperation between the countries of the region.