Qatar’s Foreign Minister Dr. Khaled Al Attiyah is slated to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tomorrow to discuss issues in the Middle East, especially the conflict in Syria, according to Reuters.
The news agency cited Russia’s foreign ministry as the source of the information, but did not say where the meeting would take place.
However, Russia’s state-backed news agency Sputnik said the discussion will be in Moscow, and that Al Attiyah is expected to arrive today ahead of tomorrow’s talk.
“The talks will allow (the two) to ‘compare notes’ on key aspects of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, with an emphasis on the search for a political solution to the existing crises with the support of international law, on the basis of broad national dialogue and without external dictate.”
In October, a coalition of countries that support the ousting of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, including Qatar, called on Russia to “end its aggression” against Syrian rebels and civilians and instead focus its fight against ISIL.
This came after Russia began launching airstrikes over central and northern Syria. Russia has been an avid supporter of Al Assad regime, ever since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
In its statement this week, Russia’s foreign ministry said:
“We additionally continue to view as an absolute priority the creation of a broad international coalition in the fight against ISIL [Islamic State or Daesh in Arabic] and other terrorist groups in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq.”
Meanwhile, last week Qatar became a part of a Saudi-led military coalition that aims to fight terrorism, including groups such as ISIL and other organizations in Syria and Iraq.
Qatar is also a member of the ongoing US-led military campaign against ISIL, alongside other Gulf and Arab countries.
Russian officials have visited Qatar several times this year.
In August, Lavrov visited Qatar to meet with Al Attiyah to discuss fighting ISIL and other issues regional issues.
Last month, Al Attiyah met with Ilyas Umakhanov, deputy chairman of the Russian Federal Council (Senate) to discuss ”bilateral relations and many issue of mutual interest,” QNA reports.
It’s not clear when a high-ranking Qatar official last went to Russia. Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to requests to comment about the upcoming trip.
In August, a couple of months before Russia started bombing areas in Syria, Al Attiyah described Qatari-Russian ties as ”historic.”
He added that Russia has supported many Arab issues, including the Palestinian cause, according to a statement issued on the official website of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Lavrov’s previous visit to Doha.
When it comes to economic cooperation, trade between the two countries amounted to more than $501 million in 2014, Vice Chairman of Qatar Chamber Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Kuwari previously said, according to Qatar News Agency (QNA).
However, relations between the two countries have suffered setbacks in the past.
For example, in February 2004, relations deteriorated between the two countries when Qatar handed down life sentences to two Russian agents charged with the killing of a former rebel Chechen leader who Russia accused of terrorism, the BBC reported at the time.
In response, Russia arrested two Qatari wrestlers who were released one month later after Qatar expelled a Russian diplomat who had been detained on suspicion of being involved in the murder.
By the end of 2004, the two convicted Russian agents were extradited to Russia, the BBC reported in a separate article.
In 2011, relations deteriorated again when the Russian ambassador in Qatar Vladimir Titorenko said he was assaulted by officials at the airport when he refused to allow them to confiscate his “diplomatic” bag, according to Russia Today (RT).
And in 2012, Russia’s UN ambassador denied reports that he threatened Qatar could be “wiped off the map,” during negotiations over a peace resolution in Syria after the Gulf country warned Russia not to veto the resolution, AP reported at the time.