The visit comes amid the US official’s multi-day trip to the Middle East with stops in Israel and Bahrain.
United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin landed in Qatar on Tuesday, meeting with Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and other officials in Qatar to discuss peace and security issues.
The U.S. official thanked the Prime Minister for Qatar’s hosting of U.S. troops at the Al-Udeid Air Base, the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, calling it a relationship “based on mutual respect and trust”.
Austin separately met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, emphasising the importance of the defence partnership with the Gulf State as a Major Non-NATO Ally.
The Secretary thanked both ministers for Qatar’s critical efforts to secure the release of 110 hostages held by Hamas.
The Qatar visit followed the Secretary’s visit to Bahrain, which addressed the several attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Israel-bound cargo ships in the Red Sea.
In Qatar, Austin discussed the Houthi threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.
He emphasized that Houthi aggression toward commercial vessels transiting critical waterways poses risks to the global economy.
The visit to Qatar comes amid the U.S. officials’ multi-day trip to the Middle East, which also stopped in Israel.
In Isreal, Austin has said the U.S. won’t dictate to Israel as it wages its war on Gaza in a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.
“Regarding timetable, this is Israel’s operation, and I’m not here to dictate timelines or terms,” Austin said on Monday during his visit to Israel, where he met senior leaders.
“Our support to Israel’s right to defend itself is ironclad.” At the same time, Austin called the protection of Palestinian civilians “a moral duty and a strategic imperative.”
Upon his fourth visit to Israel as defence chief and his second time since October 7th, Austin told his Israeli counterpart that limiting civilian casualties is “crucial.”
“Secretary Austin, we both know the complexities of war,” Gallant responded. “We know that it takes time. Unlike our enemies, we are defending our values, and we operate according to international law. The [Israeli forces are] operating to minimize the harm to the civilian population,” he added.
According to the Gaza health authorities, at least 19,453 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on the strip since October 7th.
Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said at a press conference that 52,286 other people were also injured in the war.
The New York Times reported last week that Biden administration officials want Israel to end its large-scale ground and air operations in Gaza within weeks and transition to a more targeted phase in the war as pressure for a ceasefire mounts.
Gallant said the transition into the next phase will depend upon when strategic goals are achieved, noting events often change on the battlefield.
“All in all, there is no clock that is running that we have to obey a certain day,” he said.
“But we need to get to different performances on the ground before we move to the next phase,” Gallant added.