The Qatari and French diplomats have touched on developments in Lebanon and Ukraine.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has praised Qatar’s mediating role between all Chadian sides on Monday during a joint press conference in Doha with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
The French diplomat is currently in the Gulf state for the 20th edition of the Doha Forum, which ended on Sunday. During his visit, Le Drian has met with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
His 24th visit to the country comes as Doha hosts talks between Chadian sides in an effort to pave the way for free and transparent elections. The negotiations, which kicked off on 13 March, seek to compliment the efforts of Chad’s national reconciliation talks in May.
“We commend the role of Qatari diplomacy in sensitive issues and its mediation in the transitional phase in Chad,” said Le Drian.
Last week, Chadian delegations unanimously agreed to name Qatar as the mediator at the preliminary talks.
Between 1900 and 1960, Chad was under France’s colonial empire.
Currently, France is amongst Chad’s key allies and has long-backed the former Chadian leader Idriss Deby, who was killed amidst fighting between government and rebels from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) on 20 April, 2021.
French President Emmanuel Macron was the only Western leader to attend his funeral.
France has also backed the head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council, Mahamat Idriss Deby, the late leader’s son. Paris sees N’Djamena as a key point in its fight against what it describes as “jihadist” military operations.
According to Reuters, France has at least 5,100 troops across the Sahel region.
Sheikh Mohammed and Le Drian discussed the socio-economic situation in Lebanon, with both officials stressing the importance of May’s parliamentary elections.
The elections are going to be the first since the 2019 revolution, which saw the resignation of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“We discussed the situation in Lebanon and we agree that the restoration of security there will pass through the country’s implementation of reforms,” said Le Drian.
Lebanon has been grappling with an economic crisis that was worsened over the past three years, especially following the Covid-19 outbreak and Beirut port explosion that occurred in 2020.
In December last year, France and Saudi Arabia agreed to establish an aid mechanism that would help the country cope with its multi-crises.
The joint Saudi and French efforts came two months after a diplomatic row between the GCC and Lebanon took place. The dispute was triggered by remarks made by former Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi over the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen.
Qatar has continuously offered its support to Lebanon and held regular meetings with Lebanese officials over the past months.
Speaking to the press in Qatar on the sidelines of the Doha Forum, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that Sheikh Mohammed will visit Beirut “in the coming weeks.”
War in Ukraine
The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine remains high on the agenda with an absence of a ceasefire and a rising civilian death toll.
“We affirmed the diplomatic solution in Ukraine and respect for humanitarian law,” said Sheikh Mohammed.
Le Drian has said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “a direct threat to interests on the European continent”.
The UN has recorded 2,909 civilian casualties between 24 February and 26 March, out of which 1,119 have been killed including 99 children.
Talks between Russia and Ukraine are set to resume in Turkey this week, starting on Tuesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Ukrainian leader is possible “as soon as clarifications are obtained on the main issues presented by Russia”, as quoted by Al Jazeera Arabic.
The war in Ukraine has also risked Europe’s gas supply, given that it receives 40% of its gas supplies from Moscow. Almost a third of the shipments pass through Ukraine.
In 2020, France purchased 12.4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas from Gazprom, which made up roughly 29% of French gas consumption during the same year.
European countries, including Germany and Italy, have turned to Qatar for gas supplies.
The matter was also discussed during the meeting between Qatar and France’s foreign ministers, which took place after Le Drian met with the Gulf state’s Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi.
“We stressed the importance of the economic partnership between us, especially investment in the field of energy and trade,” said Sheikh Mohammed.
The press conference took place as Qatar and France celebrate 50 years since establishing diplomatic ties. Le Drian noted that Qatar remains “a friendly country and a solid partner.”
The first round of the Qatari-French strategic dialogue took place on Monday, enabling the countries to further delve into their bilateral ties.