US President Joe Biden and Qatar’s ruling emir are set to hold negotiations at the White House on January 31, 2022 on a range of issues including global energy security, said the White House midst concerns about gas supplies to Europe.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s visit, the first since Biden took office last year, comes as Washington discusses energy with energy-producing states and firms for a potential diversion of supplies to Europe in the event Russia decides to invade Ukraine.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had held talks with Qatar’s foreign minister, said a source familiar with the matter at hand.
Tamim’s meeting with Biden at the White House will provide the leaders with an opportunity to discuss “ensuring the stability of global energy supplies,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement.
She went on to add, other issues which will be discussed includes “promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and the broader Middle East region” as well as “supporting the people of Afghanistan”.
The United States is worried that if Russia, which had stationed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, invades its neighbor Ukraine, it will trigger U.S. and European sanctions which in turn could prompt Moscow to stop delivering gas supplies to Europe.
With global gas supplies being already tight, Qatar Energy’s shipments are locked into long-term supply contracts which Qatar will find difficult to break.
Tamim’s visit aims to build on relations with Washington that have strengthened since Doha hosted talks that led to the 2020 deal for the U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan.
Qatar has played a pivotal role in evacuation operations during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and has become the U.S. diplomatic representative in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
The visit by Qatar’s emir’s to the US comes at a time when Qatar Airways is facing a spiraling row with Airbus, Boeing’s rival.
Airbus has revoked Qatar Airways’ order for jetliners after the Qatari airline sued the planemaker for more than $600 million over paint and surface flaws because of which it has grounded 21 A350 jets.
Qatar Airways has also excluded Airbus from negotiations for buying new cargo planes saying it is considering an attractive offer from Boeing to launch a proposed freighter version of its 777X.
The potential deal to renew Qatar’s fleet of some 34 freighters with the new 777X model could come as early as next week when Tamim visits Washington, said two sources familiar with the matter at hand, but cautioned saying, talks are yet to be finalized.
Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways has publicly said, he is looking at buying up to 50 freighters, with the larger number expected to include options.
Both companies declined comment.