Qatar, US to bolster cooperation in all sectors Sep 17, 2020 0 7058 12345 WashingtonThe Qatar-US relations are growing stronger and they are ample opportunities to deepen cooperation further for the benefit of the two countries.In a joint statement after the third Qatar-US Strategic Dialogue, the two countries welcomed the annual meeting and reviewed progress made since the conclusion of the last Strategic Dialogue held in Doha in January 2019. The two sides highlighted the strength of the bilateral relations and the sustained implementation of previously signed agreements.Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo co-chaired the opening session. Both sides discussed opportunities to enhance their robust bilateral relations. The 2020 Strategic Dialogue addressed regional and global affairs and built on robust bilateral cooperation in the areas of health, humanitarian assistance, international development, labour, law enforcement, counterterrorism, commerce, culture, and education. The US and Qatar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on education, culture, and sports in addition to signing a Statement of Intent (SOI) designating 2021 as the US-Qatar Year of Culture and an Announcement of Intent for Qatar to host an investment forum in the United States in 2021. Both sides plan to sign an MoU on international development and humanitarian assistance in the week of September 18.The two governments expressed concern over the detrimental impacts the Gulf crisis have on security, economic, and social aspects and on the region. They affirmed their continued support for a strong and united Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) focused on promoting a peaceful and prosperous future for all in the region and on countering regional threats.Qatar thanked the US for supporting Kuwaiti mediation efforts to resolve the ongoing Gulf crisis on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and independence of Qatar.Both sides discussed the need to employ diplomatic means to solve the current tensions in the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean.The two governments discussed issues of regional security, including joint efforts to defeat ISIS; working toward peace and an end to conflict in Libya, Syria, and Yemen; political developments in Iraq; and prospects for a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as outlined in the US Vision for Peace.The US also recognised Qatar’s active leadership and mediation to promote peace and reconciliation among all parties in Somalia and Sudan. The US shares Qatar’s concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the need for tangible steps to improve living and economic conditions.The US thanked Qatar for its indispensable role in bringing Taliban representatives to the negotiation table and for hosting the signing of the historic US-Taliban Agreement in February 2020 and the start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations in September 2020.The US applauded Qatar’s generous bilateral and multilateral humanitarian efforts through the work of various UN agencies, including a $500 million multi-year assistance pledge that will provide $8 million annually between 2019 and 2023 to support forcibly displaced populations and assist refugees, including millions of vulnerable women and young children.The Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) discussed their respective strategies and objectives in the fields of international development and humanitarian assistance and acknowledged their shared commitment to international cooperation. An MoU will be signed in the week of September 18 that aims to establish the framework for strengthening and expanding the existing collaborative relationship.On health cooperation, the US and Qatar stand together in support of global health security and a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats, such as COVID-19. To achieve this vision, the two countries will redouble their bilateral and global commitments to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases, a worldwide threat that knows no borders. Qatar noted its commitment of $88 million to support the COVID-19 pandemic response to over 80 countries worldwide. The US and Qatar plan to work together to support capacity-building in at-risk countries, through hosting workshops at conferences held in Qatar and the United States.Bilaterally, the US and Qatar intend to cooperate in the exchange of technical expertise on topics related to global health security, such as field epidemiology training and preparedness for large-scale gatherings, including FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The US has shared expertise with Qatar via the Embassy Science Fellows program and a visit of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) specialists to Qatar’s inaugural 2019 Public Health Conference in November 2019.Both countries plan to explore platforms for enhanced cooperation on topics of mutual concern, such as zoonotic disease, environmental health, immunization, disease surveillance, points of entry, and health emergency preparedness.In order to support sustainable and meaningful progress, the US and Qatar aim for durable dialogue on these topics, and may consider a Memorandum of Understanding or other document to formalise this arrangement.On labour issues and partnerships, both sides acknowledged recent progress and commitments made by Qatar on combating human trafficking and advancing labour rights. Under the framework of the US-Qatar Anti-Trafficking MoU signed in 2018 and the US-Qatar Labour MoU signed during the 2019 Strategic Dialogue, Qatar and the US implemented joint initiatives to build capacity, raise awareness, and promote labour rights.The US recognised the significant progress Qatar has made towards enacting labor reforms and efforts to combat human trafficking, including abolishing exit permits for workers. In addition, the US praised Qatar for issuing legislation mandating a minimum wage law and abolishing the “No Objection Certificate” law.The two sides plan to expand previous collaboration and implement MoUs with a focus on strengthening Qatar’s recent reforms.On law enforcement and counterterrorism partnerships, Qatar expressed appreciation for the US’ contributions to the bilateral security partnership, including in the areas of law enforcement cooperation, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 security preparations, aviation and visa security, countering nuclear smuggling and violent extremism, and combating terrorism and the financing of terrorism.The US thanked Qatar for its continued efforts to combat terrorism and the financing of terrorism (CFT), and prevent violent extremism in all forms. Both sides intend to strengthen their security and counterterrorism (CT) partnership to eradicate terrorism and counter violent extremism. The US welcomed Qatar’s commitment to provide $75 million over five years to the work of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNCT). Qatar renewed its commitment to its UN obligations, including those related to countering terrorist financing and terrorism information sharing.The two governments share respective cybersecurity approaches to protecting the COVID-19 response efforts. Both sides are committed to greater coordination and cooperation towards bolstering cyber resilience, combating cybercrime, and strengthening critical infrastructure protection measures. As Qatar prepares to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the US intends to continue close cooperation with Qatari counterparts in support of a safe and successful tournament.On commercial and aviation cooperation, the two governments highlighted the marked increase in bilateral trade, which grew by 30.7 percent between 2018 and 2019. US exports to Qatar also increased by 39 percent over the same period, accounting for 21 percent of all imports to Qatar in 2019. The US remains Qatar’s largest foreign direct investor and largest trading partner.The US and Qatar also reviewed progress on the Understandings on Civil Aviation signed on January 29, 2018. They welcomed their shared and ongoing commitment to the principles of fair competition in providing international air transportation governed by the US-Qatar Air Transport Agreement signed in Washington on October 3, 2001 and to maintaining the Open Skies relationship between them. The US-Qatar Air Transport Agreement entered into force on August 27, 2020 via an exchange of diplomatic notes. This agreement creates greater legal certainty for the governments and air carriers of each nation.The two governments affirmed their mutual desire to enhance cooperation in the energy sector. They also welcomed recent moves by US energy companies to establish offices in Qatar to further strengthen their relations with their Qatari counterparts.The US delegation recognized Qatar’s successful implementation of reforms designed to attract foreign investment into Qatar, including the creation of free zones, the expansion of business ownership rights for non-citizens, and the establishment of an Investment Promotion Agency. The Qatari delegation highlighted the constructive role US companies play in developing Qatari investments in US firms and employment, and both sides acknowledged Qatar Investment Authority’s (QIA) 2019 pledge to invest $45 billion in the US, concentrated in the infrastructure sector, with total Qatari investment in the US exceeding $200 billion. Qatar and the US plan to work together to promote further bilateral investment, including through trade missions and forums such as SelectUSA.The Qatar Investment Authority, with the US International Development Finance Corporation, are enhancing cooperation on investment in developing countries in order to create opportunities that enhance sustainability and social empowerment. As part of its strategy, the Qatar Investment Authority is looking to further expand in developing countries.The US also welcomed Qatar’s plans to conduct an economic roadshow in the United States in 2021, which will target more diverse sectors to maximize mutual economic benefit. Both parties will work to explore avenues of cooperation and information exchange in the global food and agribusiness sector.On energy cooperation, the US and Qatar, as major energy producers, welcomed the opportunity to reaffirm their mutual efforts to support access to affordable and reliable energy, while working collaboratively to reduce barriers to energy trade on a global scale. On education and cultural cooperation, both governments underscored the importance of strengthening people-to-people ties. The two countries signed a Statement of Intent to declare the year 2021 as the US-Qatar Year of Culture. Both governments plan to partner and collaborate on cultural programming and exchanges to strengthen ties between the people of the two countries.The two governments discussed further areas of collaboration including increasing professional and academic exchanges through Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) programmes such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the US Speakers Program, and the Stevens Initiative. The US and Qatar Foundation announced that two US Fulbright Scholars will spend a semester in Qatar to conduct research and teach on hydrology and the application of artificial intelligence in civil and environmental engineering, as well as treatments for Alzheimers disease.NASA and Qatar Foundation announced an agreement between NASA and Hamad bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Energy and Environment Research Institute (QEERI) to formulate a study on the detection of underground water aquifers.Qatar Foundation, Qatar Museums, and the Smithsonian Institution also announced a Memorandum of Understanding on educational, cultural, and sports collaboration.On military cooperation, the two governments reaffirmed their commitment to the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation to promote peace and stability and counter terrorism. The US delegation outlined plans to expand the operational capability of Al Udeid Air Base and commended Qatar’s generosity in upgrading critical facilities and infrastructure at the base. Together with further changes to align operating procedures with NATO standards, the upgrades at Al Udeid Air Base will increase the capability of US and coalition forces based in Qatar.The two sides discussed the $26 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, which continues to increase the capability and capacity of the Qatar Armed Forces. The FMS programme forms the cornerstone of security cooperation between US and Qatari forces, and both sides acknowledged the strong and lasting bilateral security partnership.Qatar and the US remain invested in dialogue and long-term cooperation and look forward to reviewing progress in these areas at the next Policy Working Group meeting in Washington DC in the first quarter of 2021. 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