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3rd Qatar-US Strategic Dialogue cements ties


Thursday، 17 September 2020 12:11 AM

*Joint statement underlines strength of bilateral relationship and convergence of views on regional and international issues
*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 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
*The two governments expressed concern about the detrimental security, economic, and social impacts of the Gulf crisis on the region and affirmed their continued support for a strong and united GCC
*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 the State of Qatar.

The Governments of Qatar and the United States highlighted at the Third Qatar-US Strategic Dialogue, the strength of the bilateral relationship, opportunities to further deepen cooperation to benefit both countries, and the sustained implementation of previously signed agreements and arrangements.

The event, held on Monday and Tuesday in Washington, saw Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo co-chairing the opening session.

They reviewed the progress made since the conclusion of the last Strategic Dialogue, held in Doha in January 2019. Both sides discussed opportunities to further their robust bilateral relationship. This is highlighted by the visit by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to the US in July 2019 for meetings with President Donald Trump, as well as cabinet level visits to Qatar by Pompeo and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in 2020. A large US delegation led by Mnuchin had travelled to Qatar for the Doha Forum in December 2019.

A joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 2020 Strategic Dialogue, reviewed that the event 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.

Qatar and the US 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 US in 2021. Both sides plan to sign an MoU on international development and humanitarian assistance on September 18.

On regional and global affairs, the two governments expressed concern about the detrimental security, economic, and social impacts of the Gulf crisis on the region and affirmed their continued support for a strong and united Gulf Cooperation Council 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 its sovereignty and independence.

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 $500mn multi-year assistance pledge that will provide $8mn 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 co-operation.

On health co-operation, Qatar and the US stand together in support of global health security and a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats, such as Covid-19, that pose a threat to the security and prosperity of both countries. 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 $88mn 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 in both countries.

Bilaterally, the US and Qatar intend to co-operate 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 programme 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 co-operation on topics of mutual concern, such as zoonotic disease, environmental health, immunisation, disease surveillance, points of entry, and health emergency preparedness. The US and Qatar aim for durable dialogue on these topics, and may consider a MoU or other document to formalise this arrangement.

Both sides acknowledged recent progress and committments 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 toward enacting labour reforms and efforts to combat human trafficking, including abolishing exit permits for workers. The US also 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.

Qatar appreciated 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, and prevent violent extremism in all forms. Both sides intend to strengthen their security and counterterrorism partnership to eradicate terrorism and counter violent extremism.

The US welcomed Qatar's commitment to provide $75mn over five years to the work of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, including its efforts to help Member States to use Advanced Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record data in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2178, 2396, and 2482. Qatar renews its committment 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 co-ordination and co-operation towards bolstering cyber resilience, combatting cybercrime, and strengthening critical infrastructure protection measures. They are reviewing progress on information-sharing initiatives such as the Homeland Security Information Network and reaffirm the need to continue efforts to prevent terrorist radicalisation and recruitment. They underscore the role both governments play in supporting the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. They also acknowledge the Qatar Fund for Developments leadership in ensuring transparency of developmental assistance, Qatar's active membership in the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, and Qatar's support of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism's Programming on the Role of Parliaments in Addressing Terrorism and Violent Extremism Leading to Terrorism. The US also thanked Qatar for its continued efforts to address the threat of nuclear smuggling, and the two governments are working to finalise an arrangement concerning the prevention of illicit smuggling and trafficking in nuclear and other radiological material.

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 co-operation, the two governments highlighted the marked increase in bilateral trade, which grew by 30.7% between 2018 and 2019. US exports to Qatar also increased by 39% over the same period, accounting for 21% 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, as noted in the 2019 Strategic Dialogue. 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 recognised 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 $45bn in the US, concentrated in the infrastructure sector, with total Qatari investment in the US exceeding $200bn. Qatar and the US plan to work together to promote further bilateral investment, including through trade missions and forums such as SelectUSA.

The QIA, with the US International Development Finance Corporation, are enhancing co-operation on investment in developing countries in order to create opportunities that enhance sustainability and social empowerment.

Recognising the positive outcomes of the Bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2004, and citing the success of similar events in 2018, the US welcomed Qatar's plans to conduct an economic roadshow in the US in 2021.

Both sides agreed to continue to advance their shared priorities during the ministerial-level Strategic Energy Dialogue and its working groups, in particular on developing the global conversation around the natural gas trade and energy investment.

On education and cultural co-operation, both governments underscored the importance of strengthening people-to-people ties and reviewed progress on implementing the MoU on Educational Cooperation and the SOI on Cultural Cooperation that were signed in 2019.

The two governments noted several important steps that were decided upon in the MoU on Educational Cooperation to continue building and sustaining key partnerships in the fields of education and academia. They also discussed further areas of collaboration including increasing professional and academic exchanges through Education and Cultural Affairs.

Nasa and Qatar Foundation (QF) announced an agreement between Nasa and Hamad bin Khalifa University's Qatar Energy and Environment Research Institute to formulate a study on the detection of underground water aquifers. QF, Qatar Museums, and the Smithsonian Institution also announced a MoU on educational, cultural, and sports collaboration.

On military co-operation, 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. Both governments committed to continuing discussions on the evolution of enduring basing in Qatar. 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.

Both governments noted the recent expansion of the bilateral maritime partnership, which included a continuing increase in operations by US naval vessels in Qatari ports in 2019 and 2020. Qatar's Navy and Coast Guard represent the largest maritime contribution to the 33-nation Combined Maritime Force Task Force-152 and continue to be high-value partners. These missions, together with the strong partnership between Qatari maritime forces and the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, boost regional security by providing a visible presence and deterrent to unlawful maritime activities.

The two sides discussed the $26bn Foreign Military Sales programme, which continues to increase the capability and capacity of the Qatar Armed Forces, while constituting the cornerstone of bilateral security co-operation.

Qatar and the US remain invested in dialogue and long-term co-operation 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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