Qatari emir meets Biden in shadow of Ukrainian tensions –

US President Joe Biden hosted the Emir of Qatar at the White House on Monday, stressing the strategic importance of the small Gulf state – including in a scramble to protect European allies from possible Russian energy cuts.

Minutes after Boeing and Qatar Airways struck a huge new deal, Biden praised Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, saying “our partnership in Qatar has been central to many of our most vital interests. “.

“A lot on our agenda today,” Biden said during the Oval Office fireside meeting.

“We want to talk about security in the Gulf and the wider Middle East, ensure the stability of global energy supply, continue our work together to support the Afghan people and strengthen trade cooperation.”

On that last note, the two executives were able to celebrate a $20 billion deal for Qatar Airways to become the first customer for Boeing’s new 777x cargo planes, with 34 aircraft in the initial order.

At a ceremony at the White House, Qatar Airways also signed a $6.7 billion letter of intent for 25 737 MAX narrow-body jetliners.

Acknowledging Qatar’s place in the US military’s global footprint — the state hosts the Pentagon’s central command and a huge airbase — Biden also announced he was designating it a “major non-NATO ally,” which opens the door to closer military and commercial ties.

However, the meeting overshadowed efforts to secure enough natural gas supplies to keep Europe warm through the winter if the brewing conflict with Russia escalates.

Western capitals are threatening unprecedented economic sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine, where it has placed more than 100,000 troops on the borders.

However, there are fears that the oil and gas giant could then retaliate against the European Union, which imports around 40% of its natural gas from Russia and is already going through a severe price crisis.

The emir was the first head of state from the Gulf to visit Biden since he became president just over a year ago.

In addition to meeting Biden, the Sheikh was meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, members of Congress and other officials.

The limits of Qatar’s role

During the evacuation from Afghanistan last year, US forces dispatched about 60,000 Afghans and Americans transiting through the Qatar Air Base.

Doha has served as Washington’s diplomatic contact with the Taliban, through months of painful negotiations, and will be key to any future contact with Afghanistan, while also playing a role in efforts to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden described Qatar as “a good friend and a reliable partner”.

Given Qatar’s energy wealth, it now finds itself rising to prominence on another front: transatlantic tensions over Russia’s intentions in Ukraine.

Qatar is one of the world’s largest exporters of liquid natural gas, along with the United States and Australia, and Washington and Europe are hoping Doha can temporarily redirect exports to Asian markets.

However, Qatar has little to no additional capacity in its LNG and there are limits to the amount of supply that can be diverted from existing contracts.

Speaking just before the visit, a senior US official appeared to downplay Qatar’s expectations in the energy shake-up, saying only “we are consulting with all major gas suppliers around the world”.

“I won’t be able to tell you anything more about LNG,” the official told reporters on Sunday, on condition of anonymity. “It will be in the mix, but I can’t give you specifics.”

EU and US pledge to cooperate on energy security in the face of the Russian threat

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden pledged on Friday (January 28th) to cooperate to ensure energy security for Europe and Ukraine amid a stalemate that has been triggered by the assembly of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

Comments are closed.