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Qatar's Emir to visit Washington on 31 January

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is being welcomed by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud within 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 14, 2021 [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia / Anadolu Agency]
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is being welcomed by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud within 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 14, 2021 [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia / Anadolu Agency]

Qatar's ruling Emir plans to visit Washington on 31 January, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, a trip likely to address Afghanistan, the security of gas supplies to Europe as well as Iran.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani's visit, the first since President Joe Biden took office a year ago, comes as Washington discusses with energy-producing states and firms a potential diversion of supplies to Europe, if Russia invades Ukraine.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, discussed the matter in a phone call on Monday with the Foreign Minister of Qatar, a top liquefied natural gas producer, one of the sources said.

Washington is concerned that a possible Russian military assault on Ukraine could trigger US and European sanctions on Moscow, which would then halt the delivery of Russian gas to Europe. Russia denies it plans to attack Ukraine.

Global gas supplies are already tight and Qatar Energy's shipments are locked into long-term supply contracts which the company cannot easily break.

Read: US, Qatar discuss gas supply to EU in event of Russia invading Ukraine

Sheikh Tamim's visit aims to build on relations with ally, Washington, which have strengthened since Doha hosted talks that led to the 2020 deal for US troops to pull out of Afghanistan, and played a pivotal role in evacuation efforts during the US withdrawal. Qatar has also become the US diplomatic representative in Afghanistan, now under Islamist Taliban rule.

Qatar and Turkey are in negotiations with the Taliban administration to manage operations at Kabul's international airport, the land-locked country's main international air link.

Sheikh Tamim and Biden are also expected to discuss efforts by global powers to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, with which Doha has ties, as well as efforts to end the Yemen war, the sources said.

The Emir's visit also comes amid a spiralling row between Qatar Airways and Europe's Airbus, a rival of US plane maker, Boeing.

Airbus revoked a Qatar Airways order for jetliners after the Qatari airline sued the plane maker for more than $600 million over paint and surface flaws the Airline says forced it to ground 21 A350 jets.

Read: Qatar targets $10bn of investments in US ports

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