WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that he plans to designate Qatar a major non-NATO ally, as Washington is desperate to address its challenges including a potential shortfall in Europe’s gas supplies.
Biden made the announcement during a meeting with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in the Oval Office at the White House, calling Qatar a “good friend and reliable partner.”
Biden said he planned to notify the U.S. Congress soon of the designation, which is granted by the United States to close, non-NATO allies that have strategic working relationships with the U.S. military.
The Qatari leader arrived in Washington, following major developments in the region, such as the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Qatar has since gone on to become the U.S. diplomatic representative in the Taliban-ruled country.
Observers have been keen to note how Tamim’s visit to the White House marks Washington’s hypocritical stance on his country, following the end of a nearly 43-month blockade against Qatar by its Arab neighbors.
The status, which would give Doha special economic and military privileges in its relationship with Washington, would make Qatar the second country in the Persian Gulf region after Kuwait to become a major non-NATO ally of the U.S.
Coinciding with Al Thani’s visit to Washington, the state-owned flag carrier Qatar Airways placed a provisional order for dozens of passenger jets with the U.S. manufacturer Boeing.
Biden praised the deal, which he said is worth $20 billion, saying, “[It’s] one of the largest deals that Boeing aircraft has ever had, and it will support tens of thousands of good-paying U.S. jobs here in America.”
The Qatari emir’s visit to Washington, the first since the Biden administration assumed office in January 2021, comes amid a diplomatic and military crisis in Eastern Europe, where Washington has accused Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine.
Qatar is the world’s largest supplier of liquefied natural gas and may divert supplies to Europe if the Ukraine conflict disrupts Russian gas deliveries to the continent.