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Qatar's emir to meet Trump amid regional tension

The meeting will take place in Washington on July 9 [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 July, 2019

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The July visit will also touch on economic and security ties as well as counter-terrorism issues, the White House said, confirming the upcoming meeting.
Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is due to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington on July 9 to discuss recent regional and international developments, Qatar’s state news agency reported on Saturday.

The July visit will also touch on economic and security ties as well as counter-terrorism issues, the White House said, confirming the upcoming meeting.

"The visit will build on the longstanding partnership between the United States and Qatar and further strengthen our already substantial economic and security ties," the White House said.

Washington has sought to keep up relations with Qatar, where one of its largest overseas military base is located.

Read more: Two years on, Qatar has beaten the Saudi-led blockade

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar in 2017, in one of the worst diplomatic disputes in the region in years. The quartet accused Doha of support for Islamist militants and Iran, charges it denies.

The two-year blockade has seen the quartet bar Qatari flights from their airports and airspace, ban most Qatari visitors, cut trade and shipping links, and close borders.

Washington was less than enthusiastic about the blockade imposed on Qatar, whose military base houses the forward headquarters of the US Central Command, which oversees the Pentagon's dealings across the Middle East including major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Stronger than ever'

Qatari authorities, including the ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani have consistently maintained the Gulf state has become stronger despite the ongoing blockade.

"The citizens have defended the dignity and the truth, with the consequences of strengthening the country,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said during the formal grand opening of the country's $434 million national museum earlier this year.

Sheikha Al-Mayassa Al-Thani, chair of Qatar Museums and a member of the royal family, said the blockade had not delayed the museum's opening date.

Read more: Qatar blockade: Severed brotherhood, unshaken defiance

"The blockade hasn't affected us one bit," she told AFP during a preview tour of the museum.

"We are very proud and happy and, in fact, all the people are welcome to this museum and we remain open to the rest of the world," she said.

The severed ties also prompted Qatar to search for new friends in the region. 

In January, Qatar made a comeback in the Levant, with the Gulf state's emir visiting Beirut for an Arab summit boycotted by most Arab leaders.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani then announced a $500 million investment in Lebanon's bonds to support its ailing economy.

Middle East analysts at the time said Qatar's move marked a bid to regain some of its soft power in the region dented by the counter-revolutionary frustration of the Arab Spring that Doha supported, and the Saudi-led blockade.

Trade between other countries, especially Turkey, which is one of Qatar's top customers for non-oil exports has also skyrocketed since the blockade.

"Qatar's investment to Turkey is over $20bn, the second highest value of investments by any country in Turkey," Qatar's Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairman Mohamed bin Twar said recently.

Turkey also jumped to the aid of Qatar in the immediate aftermath of the blockade by sending cargo planes full of milk, yogurt, and poultry to the blockaded country, with statistics showing a 90 percent increase of Turkish exports to Qatar in the four months of the blockade.

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