May praises Qatari ties
UK Prime Minister Theresa May held bilateral talks yesterday (Wednesday) with Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at Downing Street, in which they discussed trade, defence and security cooperation, regional stability and strategic foreign policy issues.
May praised Qatar’s 2017 £5-billion investment commitment, half of which had already been allocated to projects in the UK.
The embattled premier also noted the significant commercial opportunities on offer for both countries across several sectors.
London hailed bilateral defence and security ties in reference to the recent £6-billion Typhoon deal. They reportedly discussed how the UK could support Qatar in holding the football World Cup in 2022 and vowed to fight international terrorism.
The UK also said it was keen to see the Gulf Cooperation Council restored, ending the rift with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
May and the Amir reportedly discussed Russia, agreeing on the importance of continuing to approach the Kremlin from a position of strength and unity, while protecting global rules and norms.
Later, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Amir watched a standing-up ceremony of the Joint Typhoon Squadron.
Williamson told the media: “Qatar remains a close and important friend to the UK and it is the only nation with which we have a joint squadron. This requires a level of trust, born from our long-shared history and our commitment to a shared future.
“Our formidable Typhoon jets will boost the Qatari military’s mission to tackle challenges in the Middle East, supporting stability in the region and delivering security at home.”
As part of the multibillion-pound contract to supply Qatar with 24 Typhoons and nine Hawk T2 aircraft (pictured), No.12 Squadron will integrate Qatari personnel, including pilots and ground-crew, from next year. The team will be based at RAF Coningsby, and later in Qatar, marking the first time since the Battle of Britain that the Royal Air Force has formed a squadron with another nation.
Media attention around the visit was focused on the news that a UK casting agency offered to pay actors £20 to join a 90-minute “anti-Qatar event” outside Downing Street.
“This is NOT a film or TV production,” casting agency Extra People said in an email to their actors.”The company are looking for a large group of people to fill space outside Downing Street during the visit of the president of Quatar [sic].”
Tom Walker, director of Extra People, later tried to distance the company from the protest. “As soon as we as a company became aware that it was a political demonstration, we immediately withdrew wanting no further part in this,” he said.
Qatar has invested heavily in the Hawk T2. Picture credit: Wikimedia