The meeting agenda is likely involve the latest Israeli aggression on the besieged Gaza Strip as Qatar holds extensive discussions with international partners to de-escalate the violence.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on Thursday as part of an official state visit to Berlin, with talks expected to centre on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza as well as energy partnerships.
An Amiri Diwan statement ahead of Sheikh Tamim’s arrival in Berlin on Wednesday said the visit was a response to an invitation from the German president. The Qatari leader is accompanied by Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
The statement added that the Qatari leader is scheduled to hold discussions over “enhancing cooperation relations between the two countries in various fields, in addition to the most prominent regional and international issues of common interest.”
Sheikh Tamim’s visit to Berlin is his second since touring a range of European countries in May last year, including Slovenia, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and France.
Israeli aggression on Gaza
While the visit was announced prior to the start of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, the agenda is likely to involve the developments in Palestine. Doha is currently engaged in extensive discussions with its international partners as part of urgent de-escalation efforts.
Over the last six days, Israel has carried out the deadliest bombardment of Gaza in years, killing at least 1,350 Palestinians so far. However, the figure is expected to rise as the Israeli occupation forces continue to bomb the enclave.
Qatar, which hosts a Hamas political office, has been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts in Gaza since the onset of the latest events. Earlier this week, the Gulf state confirmed communications “with the relevant parties, as part of regional and international efforts to de-escalate the situation”.
Germany has also called on the Gulf diplomatic power to mediate the release of Israelis captured by Hamas during its surprise attack on occupied territories over the weekend.
“Various actors in the region, including Qatar, must play an important role, because they have channels that we do not have,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told MPs, as quoted by AFP on Wednesday.
Germany’s Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck also told journalists that Qatar would have contacts that “Germany and Israel do not have”.
“It would be important for Qatar to exert its influence on Hamas so that this does not happen again or can be atoned for,” Habeck said.
Numerous reports have pointed to Qatar’s role in mediating a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel over the last week.
However, in a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, the Qatari foreign ministry spokesman, appeared to adopt a cautious approach to reports on progress being made in mediation efforts, saying the current crisis in Gaza is not “mere escalation”.
“It is a bit early to comment on any mediation efforts by Qatar or other players of the region. Qatar has had many successes in de-escalating between two parties in the past…at this moment [it is] very difficult to say that any party can start mediation,” Al-Ansari told reporters in Doha during a weekly media briefing on Tuesday.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Germany’s chancellor voiced his support for mediation efforts by Qatar, Turkiye, and Egypt.
“All three can play an important role in mediating and de-escalating the current situation,” Scholz said in a government statement to parliament ahead of Sheikh Tamim’s arrival.
Last year, Sheikh Tamim went on a tour of Europe as the region scrambled to secure alternative gas supplies in an effort to ditch heavy dependence on Russian gas, in light of the Ukraine crisis.
Amir Tamim’s previous visit to Berlin saw Qatar and Germany sign an agreement to expand energy cooperation, especially in liquified natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen trade.
Speaking to German news outlet Handelsblatt at the time, Qatar’s foreign minister said his country hoped to start sending LNG to Berlin in 2024.
“We want to have our US Golden Pass liquefied natural gas plant in Texas, in which Qatar Energy holds a 70% stake, ready to deliver to Germany as early as 2024,” Sheikh Mohammed told the media outlet.
Months later, Germany signed a 15-year LNG supply agreement with Qatar, with flows expected to kick start in 2026.
Berlin has been engaged in efforts to diversify its gas sources to step away from its dependence on Moscow even prior to the war in Kyiv. Germany previously imported some 42.6 billion cubic meters from Russia.
Other European countries also turned to Qatar for LNG last year, including Italy, the UK, and France. Europe, which was already dealing with an energy crisis, received 40% of its gas supplies from Moscow, with almost a third of the shipments passing through Ukraine.
Qatar has already established its position as a reliable energy partner even before the Ukraine crisis, and it is currently on its way to dominate global LNG production with its North Field expansion project.
The multibillion project is the biggest of its kind and is set to boost Qatar’s LNG production by more than 63% by 2026, while adding 48 million tonnes per annum to the global production.
Other topics on the agenda are likely to include Doha and Berlin’s bilateral ties as well as international developments, possibly including the 2015 nuclear deal and the Syrian crisis.
Germany is a member of the p4+1—which also includes France, the UK, Russia, China—which had engaged in talks since 2021 in Vienna over the restoration of the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Qatar has long voiced its support for the restoration of the JCPOA while repeatedly expressing its readiness to mediate between rivals the US and Iran in order to revive the deal.
Last month, Doha’s shuttle diplomacy between the two sides led to a historic prisoner exchange that led to the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets. The milestone prisoner exchange sparked hope in holding further dialogue over the restoration of the JCPOA.
Meanwhile in May, Syria topped the agenda for Germany’s foreign minister as she made an official visit to Doha, where she met with Sheikh Mohammed.
In a joint press conference at the time, the Qatari and German ministers stressed that the solution to restoring stability to Syria must be “comprehensive”, “just” and should “satisfy the Syrian people.”
The presser came amid a regional wave of normalisation with Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime, which saw the Arab League allow Syria back into the bloc following more than a decade of isolation.
The bloc suspended the Syrian regime in 2011 as a response to his violent crackdown on peaceful protests, which had plunged the country into war and caused a major refugee crisis.
During the Arab League summit in May, Qatar’s amir left the meeting ahead of Assad’s speech—his first such appearance since Syria was reinstated into the bloc.
The move was widely seen as a clear rejection of Assad’s presence in the regional bloc.