Analysts told Doha News that the bilateral visits in London exhibit that the ties are going “from strength to strength”.
Qatar is going to invest some £10 billion in the UK’s economy under a strategic investment deal signed between the two countries in London.
The agreement was signed during Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to the UK, where he met with various officials including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Queen Elizabeth II.
According to the UK government, the investments are going to take place over the next five years, demonstrating the growth of Doha and London’s ties.
“The State of Qatar intends to leverage the opportunities provided by the Qatar-UK Strategic Investment Partnership to explore the deployment of this capital to invest in sectors which are vital for shared prosperity,” said the joint communiqué.
Speaking to Doha News, Dr. Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at the School of Security Studies at King’s College London, said that the visit shows that the Qatar-UK bilateral ties are going “from strength to strength.”
“This is not just about Qatar putting some money into a business or into a real estate fund. This is actually something where both sides can grow capacity, lead together in developing new technology, attracting human capital as well as creating jobs in the UK and Qatar,” said Dr. Krieg.
Another memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between QatarEnergy and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The deal aimed at strengthening energy cooperation.
Qatar’s Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi and Secretary of State at the BEIS also witnessed the launch of the UK- Qatar Energy Dialogue. It aims to expand cooperation on energy security, renewable energy, and decarbonisation.
The MoU came as European countries seek to replace Russian gas following its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. On 8 March, the UK announced that it will be “phasing out imports of Russian oil in response to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine” by the end of 2022.
Britain’s imports from Russian oil account for 8% of its demand and it also relies on domestic production of oil and gas.
“That shows you that the Qataris will get out of their way to support the UK post-Brexit and see the UK as a market for growth post-Brexit with new opportunities,” said Dr. Krieg, commenting on the previous times the Gulf state extended a helping hand to the country during its energy crisis.
The UK-GCC negotiations for a free trade agreement is also set to take place later this year, aimed at reducing trade barriers between countries of the bloc and London.
The Amir’s visit witnessed the announcement of the first Qatar-UK Strategic Dialogue, which is going to be co-chaired by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and his UK counterpart Liz Truss.
Another major announcement was made regarding adding Qatar to the new Electronic Travel Authorisation system which will begin in 2023. This would ease travel for Qataris to the UK for business and tourism.
“Qatar is becoming an increasingly important partner of the UK and in the Gulf, because it’s not just based on investment, it’s not just based on energies, it’s much more transformational than that,” said Dr. Krieg.
Defence has also been a central part of Qatar and the UK’s strategic ties, with Qatari and British officials from the sector holding regular meetings and signing numerous agreements.
With the 2022 World Cup around the corner, Doha and London cooperated in ensuring the Gulf state hosts a safe sporting event.
This was seen last year, Qatar and UK defence officials discussed joint security at the major sporting event. Last year, the two countries cooperated in the ‘Watan’ exercise which tested the preparation for the World Cup.
Johnson renewed the UK’s support to counter terrorism efforts during the major sporting event through increasing air security capabilities under the Typhoon Squadron.
“I think it’s more important that they’re building partnerships with both sides creating interdependence in education cooperation, in training, particularly when it comes to the air force, and capacity building,” said Dr. Krieg.
An adviser for the British defence ministry, Air Marshal Martin Elliot Sampson, also told Qatar’s state news agency (QNA) that the first delivery of typhoon jets to Doha will take place in August.
This comes under a major £5 billion agreement that Qatar and the UK signed in 2017, pertaining the purchase of 24 typhoon combat jets.
“Qatar remains the only partner with which the RAF [Royal Air Force] operates joint squadrons, the Joint Hawk Training Squadron at RAF Leeming, and the Joint Typhoon Squadron at RAF Coningsby,” read the joint communiqué.
Issues of common concern
Sheikh Tamim and Johnson discussed their partnership in promoting global conflict resolution efforts and addressing security threats. During the meeting, the Amir and the British official expressed their concern over the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
They also tapped into the 2015 nuclear accord, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“[The two leaders] acknowledged the role of Qatari diplomacy in these efforts and expressed their support for regional dialogue initiatives, including with Iran,” said the UK government.
Talks aimed at restoring the JCPOA, following the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the accord in 2018, have been taking place since April last year. While Qatar is not an official mediator, it has held talks with US and Iranian officials to bring their views closer.
“The UK has an interest to get the JCPOA signed and the mediation efforts by the Qataris over the last year have been very instrumental,” said Dr. Krieg.
Johnson also thanked the Qatari leader for his key role in facilitating the exit of British nationals from Afghanistan last year following the Taliban takeover on 15 August.
Qatar had carried out history’s largest airlift of people by evacuating more than 70,000 Afghans and foreigners from Kabul. It also agreed to move the British embassy from Afghanistan to Qatar to carry out its diplomatic operations.
“Both leaders reaffirmed the promotion of the rights of women and girls, and called on the Taliban to ensure women have equal opportunities in education and the workplace, and access to services,” said the UK government.
Another key issue discussed at the high-profile meeting included the unlawful killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The veteran Palestinian-American journalist was shot by an Israeli sniper on 11 May.