Interview with H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI
Ambassador of the State of Qatar to Romania
Vasile SIMILEANU: We live in an ever-changing world. Attemps to build a new world have different approaches. In this sense, geopolitics plays an important role in establishing new strategies.
From your state’s official point of view, what are these new geopolitical challenges and pressures?
H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI: Geopolitics had an important role in drawing up the regional and international strategies for our country through understanding the challenges and opportunities related to our foreign relations, especially with neighboring countries and regional partners. We are part of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which was established in 1981 in the midst of a region that has long witnessed wars and conflicts, as it was over the years.
For decades, it has been an important element in global competition due to energy and strategic interests. This regional framework of the Arab Gulf states has contributed to maintaining balance, security and stability for our countries, peoples and the entire region. As it is known, Qatar is a country surrounded by large countries, which means that it is located in an important and highly complex geopolitical area. This is what created challenges for our diplomacy related to security and stability, as it imposed on us a balance in our foreign relations with all neighboring countries, and posed a challenge to us in light of the wars in the region and the political tensions between some of these countries and abroad, and due to the new conflicts and confrontations between the major powers the world order is facing a critical situation.
The accelerating conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and the increasing confrontations between the United States and China have great geopolitical effects, and the great regional powers around us compete and cooperate at the same time, not to mention the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on all countries of the world, including our country, with reference here to the geographical location of the State of Qatar that plays a role in the development of sectors such as transport, trade and energy, given that our country is among the most important players in the global gas market.
V.S.: Each state promotes its security strategies in the light of international developments. What are your state’s orientations in the international arena?
H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI: On many occasions, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, stressed the policy of our country to renounce violence, resolve disputes by peaceful means, adopt preventive diplomacy, and mediate to resolve disputes through mediation and negotiation, whether it is related to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the border disputes that have arisen in Asia and Africa. Our diplomacy at the international level was distinguished by mediation to resolve disputes by peaceful means, as we hosted negotiations between the United States of America and the Afghan Taliban movement, which ended a global conflict that lasted 20 years. It is no secret that the last deal for the release of 5 American and 5 Iranian detainees took place in Doha, with full mediation from the State of Qatar for many months.
On the other hand, our country seeks to develop and build regional and interna-tional partnerships and security cooperation in the field of combating terrorism and fighting extremism, strengthening regional security and defusing crises. We also invest in developing our military and self-defense capabilities. We emphasize here that the State of Qatar, despite its small size, has created a unique kind of balance in the relationship between the major confronting countries.
We are a major non-NATO ally (MNNA) of the United States of America, and at the same time we enjoy a great commercial relationship and partnership with China, while maintaining the strategic economic partnership with the United States of America, which confirms our ability to adapt, engage and deal with different poles and play important roles in the region and the world.
V.S.: Geopolitics has, in the current international context, a high weight in the generation of politico-military and economic security strategies. Please comment on the main political-military, economic, social, cultural orientations for the promotion of national interests!
H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI: It is clear that the world today is witnessing a state of instability and international tension, reminiscent of the years preceding the First and Second World Wars, and the stage of the Cold War that was revealed a year and a half ago by the war in Ukraine. In the same time, we are witnessing the birth of a new global bloc expressed by the recent BRICS Summit in Johannesburg.
We consider it necessary to consider the formulation of a new international agree-ment that preserves security and peace for all countries and peoples of the world because the arms race, the threat of using weapons of mass destruction, the invasion and occupation of the lands of other countries, and the prevention of food exports that have affected billions of people, especially in poor countries, as well as the use of energy as a weapon, are not in the interest of humanity, and the alternative is more dialogue, the promotion of a culture of tolerance, and the fight against extremism and hostility to others.
Small countries such as the State of Qatar are exposed to the risk of geopolitical conflicts more than others. Therefore, we prioritize our foreign policy to take advantage of our geographical location to serve our political interests, enhance our steadiness, and engage in resolving regional and international crises as an international mediator and reliable partner. From here, our country adheres to humanitarian diplomacy, development cooperation, strengthening bilateral and multilateral international re-lations with various countries and organizations, adopting supportive positions for regional and international issues such as human rights, climate change and sustain-able development, in addition to cultural diplomacy, holding international and dialogue seminars for various directions, embracing the dialogue of religions and civilizations, and using sports as a means to promote human connections between different peoples, as Qatar hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2022 to enhance its global image as the first country in the region to host such a global competition.
H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed it in his speech at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in its 53rd session in the city of Davos this year the truth of our country’s position on the conflicts in the Middle East, Ukraine and Afghanistan calling for the need for everyone to comply with the Charter of the United Nations and not to use force and threats against another country. From here, we established relations with the countries of the Asian continent, which enhances our geopolitical role in the region, as well as cooperation with the United Nations and regional organizations, which made our country a regional center for pluralism, and one of the most important results was the opening of the United Nations House in Qatar.
V.S.: Regarding relations with other states, how do you assess the strategies developed in relations with Romania, the USA, the EU, Russia and China?
What about the Arab-Islamic world?
H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI: Building alliances, pluralism, and facilitating peace and investment for future generations are among the most important pillars of our foreign policy. We are an active member in international initiatives that seek to promote peace and stability. I can say with satisfaction that our relationship with Romania is distinguished on the political and diplomatic levels, and we were the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council which opened an embassy in Bucharest in the autumn of 1996. Successful visits were exchanged between officials in both countries at the highest levels. There is a serious dialogue at the level of foreign ministers and state ministers to advance bilateral relations between our two countries in various fields. We are currently seeking to complete the legislative framework of bilateral agreements and protocols that cover various aspects of cooperation: political, economic, cultural, educational and tourism, as well as at the level of the Chambers of Commerce and businessmen. I also visited a number of counties to seek out significant opportunities for cooperation. We focus our efforts, after meeting a large number of ministers, parliamentarians and statesmen, to promote cooperation in the economic field, which unfortunately does not reach the level of political relations between the two countries. We have great optimism that the next stage will witness a development of the economic relations in the field of investment and trade exchange.
As for our diplomatic relations with the United States of America, they go back to 1972 and are characterized by strength, mutual trust and coordination between the two countries on many regional and international issues. The United States is the largest foreign investor in the oil and gas sector in the State of Qatar. Our country hosts the headquarters of the American Central Command and we coordinate our efforts to maintain security in the Gulf region.
While the relationship between the State of Qatar and the countries of the European Union reflects mutual bilateral cooperation, we seek to build a strategic partnership with the European Union to face common global challenges in the field of energy, climate change and combating terrorism, in addition to the priority of economic cooperation and the promotion of political cooperation in issues of regional peace and security, and along with cultural and educational cooperation. The European Union is an important partner for our country in the field of trade and investment.
As for our relationship with Russia, it dates back to 1988 and includes all aspects of politics, economy and culture. In June of this year, during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani delivered a message from His Highness the Emir of the State of Qatar to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin regarding the aspiration to enhance cooperation between the two countries and to develop partner-ship and friendship, especially since the two countries play a global role in the field of natural gas exports. We hope that this war in Ukraine will end in accordance with the principles of international law.
As for China, we are having a diplomatic relationship since 1988, and it is now going through a stage of strategic cooperation, especially in the field of energy, political coordination and cooperation in a number of conflict files in Africa and the Palestinian cause. Two Russian companies are expected to participate in the Northeast Field Expansion Plan, with a cost of $30 billion, which will increase Qatar’s liquefied gas production capacity from 77 million tons annually to 126 million tons by 2027.
We are part of the Arab world and we share with our brothers the difficult challenges and the sincere desire of our peoples to achieve development, peace, stability and progress. We play a major role in creating climates for promoting democracy and addressing Arab-Arab differences. We always stand with the rights of the Arab peoples in conflict areas to live in peace, especially the Palestinians, Syrians, Yemenis and Sudanese. We also have excellent relations with countries of the Islamic world and we are an important part of the political and cultural structure of the Arab and Islamic world.
V.S.: In terms of trade strategies, how do you assess the strategies developed by your country?
What national interests are promoted in relations with third countries?
H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI: The State of Qatar’s foreign trade continuity is based on enhancing economic diversification of sources of national income and developing multiple sectors, including natural gas, petrochemicals, mineral industries, as well as tourism.
We also seek to strengthen economic, regional and international partnerships through trade and investment agreements, create a strong infrastructure and improve the business environment to attract foreign investors, play a regional role and enhance foreign trade. For example, the repercussions of the war in Ukraine on the energy market caused a boom in our export revenues from liquefied gas during the past nine months. In September 2022, the revenues reached about $100 billion, considering that we are the third exporter of gas around the world, as we exported 81.2 million tons in 2022, with an increase of 5.4% over the year 2023. In addition, the capital of the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund is about $475 billion, compared to about $461 billion in September of the previous year.
Our foreign investments were distributed in the most important economies in the world in a diverse basket. Our most important trading partners are China, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey and other countries. The cooperation includes the field of energy, renewable energy, infra-structure, petrochemical industries, aviation, finance, banking and various industries. We also made smart investments in our country with the revenues we were fortunate from energy wealth. We developed economic strategies in the region during the period from 2017 to 2019. We were among the fastest countries in the world to transition from imports in general to a smart policy of self-sufficiency, especially in sectors that have impact on national security such as basic foods and vital trade sectors. We look forward to Romania being part of our investment projects in the foreseeable future.
V.S.: In numerous publications and activities, we have promoted new geopolitical approaches such as GeoIntelligence, the geopolitics of artificial intelligence, as well as approaches to the role of cultural and religious minorities in securing regional, and even global stability.
How are these approaches perceived in your country?
H.E. Osama Yousef ALQARADAWI: We are very interested, like the rest of the world, in artificial intelligence because it can be used in many fields that respect humanity and development, support the increase of business and commercial projects, develop a strategy for data analysis and service companies, through fully digital transformation, as part of our endeavor to keep up with scientific development to achieve progression.
We have participated in the conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which was held in Bucharest from September 26 to October 14, 2022, and our country will host the next Conference for Communications in 2026, and we believe that information technology and artificial intelligence can serve our aspirations towards increasing work efficiency and developing healthcare, education, industries, culture, improving predictability and reducing production costs.
As for your question about the role of cultural and religious minorities, it stems from our belief in promoting dialogue among civilizations, as it is an indispensable mechanism for building bridges of communication between societies and peoples and promoting mutual respect and coexistence in facing the growing manifestations of hatred and hate and the spread of violent conflicts and extremism, as we have an international position supporting the protection of minorities rights, especially in areas of war and conflict, which are always the result of isolation, instability, lack of development and extremist currents.
Vasile Simileanu: Thank you, Excellency!