Qatar last week stressed the need to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russia announced the annexation of 15% of the country.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kazakhstan on Thursday, where they discussed their “strong and historical relations.”
During a meeting in Astana, the two leaders also discussed the World Cup 2022, with the Qatari leader acknowledging Russia’s efforts.
“Russia has provided great support to Qatar regarding the 2022 World Cup Organising Committee,” the amir said.
Sheikh Tamim’s statement was responded with Putin wishing the Gulf country “success in organising the 2022 World Cup and are ready to provide them with support.”
During the meeting with Sheikh Tamim in Astana, Putin said he would be glad to see the Qatari leader visit Russia, according to state-run Russian News Agency.
“We are all glad, and our entire delegation is glad to see our friends from Qatar. We have practically started discussing issues on the current agenda during our work lunch,” the Russian leader expressed.
Having last seen one another back in 2019, the Russian president further expressed: “I want to say that I am very glad to see you again, as we have already agreed, we will be glad to see you paying a visit to Russia.”
A person involved with the discussions said prior to the Thursday talk that the meeting is seen an effort to reduce tensions between Moscow and Doha, which have escalated since the Russia-Ukraine conflict started back in February.
Despite trying to maintain a largely neutral attitude towards the issue, gas exporter giant Qatar has made certain moves that have irritated Moscow, according to the source.
“This will be the first face-to-face meeting after the outbreak of the pandemic, so it is very important,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters ahead of the meeting on Wednesday. “The last time we met with the amir was in Dushanbe in 2019.”
While Ushakov said talks between the two sides would primarily focus on politics and trade, he also noted energy as a point of discussion.
“I would single out cooperation in the energy market, cooperation between Russia and Qatar within the framework of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum,” he added, according to Reuters.
According to the source, Qatar was also one of eight non-NATO nations that attended a NATO summit earlier this year and has criticised Russia’s acquisition of Ukrainian territory.
The source cited as examples Russia’s delivery of humanitarian help in Syria and its role in facilitating discussions between international powers on Iran’s nuclear file and claimed that some of these moves are a testament to Russia’s “displeasure” and thus the consequent interference in key Qatar dossiers.
The meeting on Thursday comes just a day after Doha joined 143 countries to vote on a United Nations General Assembly resolution rejecting Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories.
Sheikh Tamim also called the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, shortly after explosions shook a number of cities earlier this week, including the nation’s largest city, Kyiv.
To continue acting as a conflict mediator, Doha “needs cordial relations with Russia and others in the region,” the source emphasised.
During his meeting with the Russian leader, the amir also highlighted Qatar’s “major, strong and successful investments there,” adding that his country is looking forward to “developing these relations in all areas.”
His statement comes as Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in March that Doha is not planning on making any new investments in Russia until “clarity on the stability of the situation” in Ukraine is attained.
Qatari investments in Russia
In an interview with CNN, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman said that investment in Russia is currently “under a lot of review” and Doha is not thinking about boosting its investments there until a “better environment and more political stability” is witnessed.
The QIA’s current and generous investments in Rosneft is based on “commercial assessment” and is still in progress. However, the Qatari envoy noted, QIA will cease to increase its investments for the time being.
As reported by Reuters in late March, China’s state-run Sinopec Group also suspended talks regarding an important petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia due to the government’s “call for caution as sanctions mount over” the Ukrainian crisis.
Following the Qatar-run investment and its Chinese counterpart, the two events are seen as a ‘crystallisation’ of a “trend of ‘soft sanctions’ on Russia by its non-Western partners.”