HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah has said Qatar plans to further strengthen military relations with the US.
In a discussion on ‘US-Qatar Military-to-Military Relations’ hosted by the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC yesterday, HE Dr al-Attiyah said the development of ties includes plans to expand the US airbase in Qatar that currently houses about 10,000 American military personnel, Al Jazeera reported.
A 2040 vision on enhancing military co-operation between the two countries also includes plans to build ports to host the US Navy in the future, he said.
The discussion was held a day before the US-Qatar strategic dialogue takes place in Washington, DC today. The Heritage Foundation is a US-based think-thank.
Expansion of the Al Udeid base – home of the US Central Command – will allow for 200 more housing units for officers and their families, HE the Minister said. “It will very soon become a family-oriented place for our American friends there. We want more of the families to be stable and feel more comfortable in their stay.”
Al Udeid serves as one of the most important overseas US military bases with operations throughout the Middle East launched from Qatar.
“Qatar is strategically placed. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – these are all hotspots in the region. I am not exaggerating when I say 80% of aerial refuelling in the region is from Udeid,” HE the Minister noted. “We’re the ones that keep your birds flying.”
He added that the US presence has been beneficial for Qatar’s armed forces. “We’re learning a lot on the military side by flying side by side. We are learning from the Americans, it’s a real operational environment.”
In June 2017, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air blockade.
“What’s happening in the region in the past seven months isn’t good for the secure flow of energy. Keeping the GCC in coherent status is very important for a safe and smooth flow of energy,” he observed.
HE Dr al-Attiyah reiterated that Qatar wants to end the GCC crisis and the US plays an important role. “At the moment, I think the only person who can solve the GCC crisis is President (Donald) Trump. And I think he can solve it in a phone call,” he said. “Nobody is benefiting from what is happening in the GCC except for terror groups.
“We’re open to dialogue. We can discuss anything. The only thing we don’t accept is imposing conditions on us or tampering with our sovereignty.
“We’re tough people. We don’t accept pre-conditions. But at the same time, we’re very open to discuss issues that worry them.”
HE the Minister said Qatari military commanders are planning, along with their Pentagon counterparts, to strengthen military relations within the framework of the 2040 vision, which includes plans to construct ports to host the US Navy, according to Al Jazeera Arabic.
Meanwhile, he stressed that Qatar would not allow to anyone to manipulate the prices of oil and gas. “Thirty per cent of our partners are American companies such as ExxonMobil. We have the world’s largest gas field, and our partner is ExxonMobil – perhaps forever, not for 10 years – but maybe even 60 or 70 years,” he added.
Read full article on Gulf Times, January 30, 2018