Qatar’s emir will meet with US President Joe Biden on January 31 to discuss a range of subjects, including global energy security, amid concerns over gas supply to Europe.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to the White House, which will be his first since Vice President Joe Biden took office last year, comes as Washington talks with energy-producing countries and companies about a possible diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.
According to reports, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Qatar’s foreign minister over the phone on Monday about the situation. Qatar is a major LNG producer.
The emir’s meeting with Biden will give the two leaders the chance to talk about “ensuring the stability of global energy supplies,” according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
“Promoting stability and development in the Gulf and the broader Middle East region” and “helping the people of Afghanistan” will be among the other topics discussed.
Washington is fearful that Russia, which has amassed over 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, may invade the country, sparking US and European sanctions and forcing the Kremlin to cease gas sales to Europe.
Global gas supplies are already scarce, and Qatari energy shipments are bound by long-term supply agreements that are difficult to break.
According to a senior Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press news agency about internal deliberations, the EU would only be able to find alternative gas supplies in “rather smaller volumes from a multitude of sources” to make up for a Russian cutoff.
Sheikh Tamim’s visit aims to enhance ties with Washington, which have improved since Doha sponsored discussions that resulted in the 2020 agreement on US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Two sources told Reuters that the two leaders will also address efforts by global powers to rescue the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, with which Doha has links, as well as efforts to end Yemen’s war.
The emir’s visit to Washington comes amid an escalating conflict between Qatar Airways and Airbus, a European competitor of Boeing.
After Qatar Airways sued Airbus for more than $600 million over paint and surface problems that the airline claims prompted it to ground 21 of its A350 planes, Airbus revoked the order.