*Need to end siege of Qatar stressed at roundtable hosted by Gulf Times
Qatar and the US continue to share strong and growing relations in many sectors, especially in the fields of energy, defence and education, a round table discussion attended by US and Qatar participants has agreed.
Qatar Tribune Editor-in-Chief Dr Hassan Mohamed al-Ansari said though the initial response of the US administration to the blockade of Qatar pained Qataris and hurt them deeply, the strategic and long standing relations that bind the two countries together are strong enough to overcome any such unfortunate developments.
The US delegation comprised members of the ‘Qatar Harvey Fund (QHF) Advisory Board’, which included former ambassador of the US to Qatar Chase Untermeyer, who is also QHF advisory and chairman of the Qatar-America Institute. The fund was set up following Qatar's donation of $30mn to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The meeting with the QHF Advisory Board was hosted by Gulf Times Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka at the newspaper’s conference hall. Al-Mudahka underscored Qatar-US relations, saying “Texas is a very special state for Qatar.”
During the meeting, Dr al-Ansari said the US “plays a very significant role” in Qatar’s efforts to expand further its armed forces and defence sector. He said Al Udeid Air Base, which US President Donald Trump in December 2018 described as “an incredible base,” plays an important role in the security of the Gulf region.
“Qatar-US defence partnership is flourishing and expanding. Therefore, we believe that Al Udeid Air Force Base in not just a military facility but more importantly, it is the Command and Control Centre for the whole region.
“Qatar has purchased a lot of weapons and aircraft from the US…we are expanding our military and defence sector and the US is playing a major role in these efforts,” Dr al-Ansari pointed out.
On the energy sector, Dr al-Ansari underlined Qatar’s longstanding partnership with ExxonMobil, which, he said, “helped create one of the largest LNG projects around the world".
“We believe that the US and its gas companies, such as ExxonMobil, could play a role in Qatar’s LNG expansion plans and continued future in the energy industry...Qatar will increase its LNG production from from 77mn metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) to 110 mtpa and Texas will play a major role in expanding Qatar’s LNG production.
“This will make Qatar the largest LNG producer in the world, and we play a major role in world security in terms of providing energy to many parts of the world, such as Asia and Europe,” he said.
Dr al-Ansari also said that Qatar’s investments in the US, such as those in Washington DC and New York “will be good for both sides.” He said “because we believe the US economy is strong and viable, and we believe our investments there are good for the peoples of both countries".
He termed the bullying tactics adopted by some countries as the reason for the siege of Qatar and called for international pressure for the immediate lifting of the unjust blockade.
For his part, Untermeyer expressed his gratitude for Qatar’s support for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. He said part of QHF will also be utilised to fund scholarships and other programmes in the cities of Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange, which were heavily damaged during the hurricane.
Advisory board member Graciela Saenz, who is a lawyer and former Houston City Council member, extended her appreciation for “the opportunity to engage in the project on a local basis.”
“We have welcomed this gift of generosity from Qatar…There are many things that had happened in our country lately that many of our average citizens do not understand, and I think as being able to go and convey the stories in what we have seen, I think, will bode well for both sides, for us, especially, as we continue to learn and engage and develop this wonderful relationship that has been in place for so many years already. I truly appreciate the hospitality, the generosity, and the information sharing. And I, for one, am willing to go back and tell the story,” Saenz said.
Another member of the delegation, Dr Suresh Khator, stated that part of the $30mn Qatar Harvey Fund went to the University of Houston and was utilised for books, computers, and tuition fees, among others.
Eileen Lawal, president, Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy, said: “Thank you for your warm kindness, and please note that what you have supported will be a voice on your behalf. We will make sure that all of Houston knows and our entire network knows the wonderful things that you have done and continue to do on our behalf.”
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