The 2015 nuclear accord was discussed amongst other issues of common concern during the high-profile meetings in Washington.
US President Joe Biden requested from Congress to designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally (MNNA) on Monday, the same day he met with the Gulf state’s leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Sheikh Tamim is the first Gulf leader to hold such a meeting with President Biden since he came to office in January last year, and was accompanied by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
“I designated Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally in recognition of our strong partnership over 50 years. We reaffirmed our unwavering interest in promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and Middle East region,” tweeted the American president.
Today, I met with Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar. I designated Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally in recognition of our strong partnership over 50 years. We reaffirmed our unwavering interest in promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and Middle East region. pic.twitter.com/OaSewjWFux
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 1, 2022
Washington’s latest move to list Qatar as a MNNA further signifies the strength of the two allied states’ ties.
President Biden made the request in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, where he said the designation was “in recognition of Qatar’s many years of contributions” to the US.
“I am making this designation in recognition of Qatar’s many years of contributions to US-led efforts in the US Central Command area of responsibility and in recognition of our own national interest in deepening bilateral defense and security cooperation with the State of Qatar,” read the letter.
Qatar would be the third Gulf country to be added to the list of 17 current MNNA’s, which already includes Bahrain and Kuwait.
The MNNA designation provides Washington’s foreign partners with several benefits in areas concerning defence trade and security cooperation.
The meeting between Sheikh Tamim and President Biden took place shortly after Qatar Airways and American plane-manufacturer Boeing signed a deal worth more than $20 billion. The agreement was welcomed by both leaders during their short statements to the press.
“I want to applaud the new deal that Qatar Airways group signed with Boeing—a $20 billion deal. One of the largest deals Boeing has ever had, and it will support tens of thousands of good paying US jobs here in America,” said Biden.
During their meeting at the White House, the two leaders “reaffirmed their mutual interest in promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and broader Middle East region”.
Sheikh Tamim said he had “fruitful discussions with President Biden” in which they “exchanged views on regional and international developments.”
The Qatari Amir added that, “the strategic partnership between our countries is bringing peace and stability to our region.”
A White House readout also stated that Amir Tamim and President Biden discussed the stability of global energy supplies.
Whilst the statement did not explicitly mention Russia-Ukraine tensions, the meeting came amid talks with Qatar to supply Europe with liquified natural gas (LNG) in the event of a Moscow invasion of Kyiv.
Energy security in Europe has been a concern for countries in the region, given that it receives 40% of its gas supplies from Russia as almost a third of the shipments pass through Ukraine.
Speaking to Al Jazeera in Washington DC, Qatar’s foreign minister said that Europe’s energy crisis cannot be limited to the latest Russia-Ukraine tensions.
“Global energy issues are not short term, rather, they take collective action to be resolved,” noted Sheikh Mohammed in his interview with the Qatari broadcaster.
Iran nuclear deal
Qatar’s foreign minister also told Al Jazeera that Sheikh Tamim and President Biden tapped into the latest developments regarding the restoration of the 2015 nuclear accord.
Sheikh Mohammed said that the Gulf state is “using its open channels with Washington and Tehran to bring their views closer”.
“We are interested in reaching an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue because that is a factor of stability for the region,” explained the Qatari diplomat, adding that the Gulf state is “trying to encourage the Iranian side to take positive initiatives towards the countries of the region”.
Qatar has long expressed its support for the revival of the nuclear deal and previously said that it would “spare no efforts” in restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) .
Qatar’s foreign minister travelled to Iran on Thursday where he met with top officials including his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who was also in the Gulf state on 11 January.
During his visit to Tehran, the foreign minister also met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Throughout the visit, the US thanked Qatar for its evacuation efforts in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of its capital, Kabul, on 15 August.
Last year, Qatar and the US signed an agreement during the latest Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, enabling the former to represent Washington’s interest in Afghanistan in light of the US closing its embassy following the Taliban takeover.
The Palestinian case has long been a top priority for Qatar, which has repeatedly refused to normalise with Israel despite the signing of the Abraham accord by the Zionist state and some of its Gulf neighbours, including the UAE and Bahrain.
Before commencing his meeting with President Biden, Sheikh Tamim said that he was going to discuss the rights of the Palestinian people.
Since, however, there have been no further statements on Palestine-related conversations.
Qatar-US defence ties
Earlier on Monday, Sheikh Tamim met with US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, at the Pentagon.
— الديوان الأميري (@AmiriDiwan) January 31, 2022
During the meeting, Austin also thanked Qatar’s Amir for their evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, saying, “We couldn’t have evacuated more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan without your help at Camp As Sayliyah and Al Udeid. You welcomed with open arms those who left Afghanistan to find a new beginning,” referring to the American military posts in Qatar.
“We’re going to continue working together to help bring security and stability in the region, and I’m sure with this close partnership and this great relationship, we will be able to do so. We demonstrated that very clearly in Afghanistan,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Last year, the US Congress had issued a statement calling legislators to include Qatar in the National Defense Authorisation Act [NDAA] for the 2022 fiscal year.
Despite this, there have been no updates regarding the delayed approval of Qatar’s requests to purchase four MQ-9b Predator drones from Washington.
There have been no updates from the visit on the latest development in Qatar’s requests and whether it was discussed during any of the high-profile meetings.