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Friday, August 21, 2020

Corona Virus: Qatar promises to continue preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup


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The Qatari foreign minister told Sky News that cooperation between countries is essential to beat the emerging COVID-19.

Qatar, the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has pledged to hold it on time despite successive strikes from the Corona virus pandemic.

Qatar's Foreign Minister said stadium designs, which are nearly 90% complete, would respond to any changes to the health and safety guidelines, as a result of the new Corona Virus COVID-19, and consultations are underway with the organizing committee.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told Sky News: "We believe that Qatar is working closely and strongly with various health care organizations to make sure that a healthy and safe World Cup is presented, and we believe this is part of the treatment for the world to return to cohesion again in a happy way".

“There are ongoing practices with the Organizing Committee, and with various stakeholders, to ensure that all health and safety standards are applied in all of our stadiums, and this is still ongoing".

"Once it becomes clear to all of us, I'm sure we'll make it public."
Qatar has suffered an unusually large number of coronavirus infections due to its small population, but has managed to keep the mortality rate down.
The Gulf country, with a population of 2.8 million, has recorded 65,000 cases so far, but the number of deaths has reached 49 only.

Qatar has instituted a strict examination and tracing system, which some have criticized as a major violation of their privacy.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani revealed that the Emir of Qatar has participated in the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 held on Thursday and hosted by Boris Johnson, in which Qatar pledged $ 20 million (15.5 million Sterling pounds) to the vaccine alliance (Gavi).

In response to a question about whether the absence of a global strategy to tackle the Corona virus represents a global failure, the Foreign Minister said, “a better cooperation is the key”.

"Without cooperation, exchange of experiences and dialogue, we believe that we cannot learn or depend on each other," he said.

"So we believe that despite the discussion that we see about the national approach, this should act as an incentive for us to strengthen and improve our international cooperation and joint action."

The United States recently chose to cut funding to the World Health Organization, citing the organization's failures to handle the virus appropriately.

Sheikh Mohammed said: "We believe that Thursday's Summit also represents a demonstration of the extent of commitment of various countries to multilateralism, and we believe it is important to consider reforming these organizations”.

"But more importantly, is to preserve them and ensure that they work effectively and respond to the challenges our countries face”.

Aside from the new COVID-19, this week marks the third anniversary of the Saudi- led siege of Qatar.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt led a regional siege by cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The siege countries cut trade, travel and diplomacy with the Gulf country, accusing Qatar of having become too close to Iran and of supporting terrorism because of its ideological ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The anti-Qatar quartet also called, as they call, the closure of the Qatari channel, Al-Jazeera.

"This crisis was created from the start, and we still do not see any recognition by the siege countries that this crisis is artificial," the minister said.

"We hope that one day everyone will notice that there are many regional and global challenges that we face together, that make us need to talk to each other, to support each other, and to stand with each other".

"COVID-19 represents one of the changes our country faces, but also the entire world is facing," he said.

Focusing on security in a region of many tensions, the Foreign Minister also revealed the following:

The efforts of US President Donald Trump to end the Saudi-led siege of Qatar have been beneficial, but a decision must be found.

Iran is a friend of Qatar, and that his government can broker a deal between Tehran and Washington, if there is a willingness by both sides.

Iran was spoken to by Qatar to end any support for President Assad in Syria. His words come at a time when the regional power claims that Iranian influence in Syria is weakening.

Israel's plan to occupy part of the West Bank and implement Israeli sovereignty, as soon as the month of July comes, will be the last bullet of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Qatar has positioned itself, in a number of regions, as a potential regional mediator. It hosts the largest US air base in Al Udeid Air Base, and still maintains strong ties with Iran.

The Qatari capital, Doha, was also chosen as the office of the Taliban officials in an attempt to mediate the peace process between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States.

Although it provided ideological, political and financial support to the Palestinians in both Gaza and West Bank, Qatar maintains commercial ties with Israel.

In a direct warning to Israel about the annexation plans in the West Bank, Sheikh Mohammed said: "We hope that these threats to take the annexation decision are not real, because we believe that they will be the last bullet in the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, we want them to return to the negotiation table and engage in talks face to face.

Unfortunately, year after year, Israeli behavior has shown us that they were not serious about peace, but were only trying to establish relations with Arab countries, ignoring the rights of the Palestinian people”.

On regional tensions with Iran, the Qatari foreign minister said that the situation remains "very serious" in the wake of the January assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by an American drone.

"It was a critical period and we have crossed it peacefully, but we are still in a serious position, we want to see a final decision between Iran, the United States, Iran and other Gulf countries," he said.

"If we are asked and accepted by both parties, we will be ready to help, and at the same time we are ready to work with other countries and help them with the aim of mitigating the escalation and calming the situation”.

On the relationship between Qatar and Iran, he said, "In a time of need, you need your friends to stand with you; Iran has proven that it stands with us and the Qatari people (during the siege led by Saudi Arabia)."

"And this is despite the policy differences with Iran; we have had differences for a long time: in Syria, Iraq and Yemen."

"If you look at the policies of Iran and Qatar, they are completely different."

Last month, sources in Israel claimed that Iran is currently reducing its forces in Syria, abandoning bases and reducing its influence in the country, and its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

When this claim was focused on, Sheikh Muhammad alluded to changes on the ground: “We have spoken to them [Iran] to make sure they do not support him [Syrian President Assad] and we hope that this progress, and these steps on the ground, will help to achieve justice for the Syrian people, and prosecute the real criminal behind this, the current president of Syria.

Mark Stone
Sky News correspondent in the Middle East

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