U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue Bolsters Bilateral Ties – Remarks at the High-Level Opening Session of the Inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue

The inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue opened at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, 30 January 2018 with remarks by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Muhammad al-Atiyah:

Three bilateral memorandums were signed at the high-level dialogue, aimed at strengthening the U.S.-Qatar relationship:

The first is a memorandum of understanding that establishes the convention for this U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on an annual basis going forward, so that we can continue to build on the close partnership between our two countries.

The second document is a joint declaration outlining the United States cooperation with Qatar on matters of shared regional and security interests.

The third document is a memorandum of understanding that creates a framework for the cooperation between the United States and Qatar to combat human trafficking.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised the close relationship between the U.S. and Qatar, and outlined the topics of discussion for the dialogue:

Qatar is a strong partner and a longtime friend of the United States. We value the U.S.-Qatar relationship and hope the talks today deepen our strategic ties. In today’s Strategic Dialogue sessions, we will discuss important areas of cooperation, including trade and investment, security, counterterrorism, energy, and aviation. The United States believes enhanced trade will contribute positively to both our countries’ economic development, and create jobs for the American people and Qatari citizens while furthering the region’s security and stability.

Mr. Tillerson condemned the ongoing Gulf crisis as harmful to U.S. and regional security interests:

As the Gulf dispute nears the eight-month mark, the United States remains as concerned today as we were at its outset. This dispute has had direct negative consequences economically and militarily for those involved, as well as the United States. We are concerned by the rhetoric and propaganda employed in the region, playing out daily in Arab mainstream and social media.

It is critical that all parties minimize rhetoric, exercise restraint to avoid further escalation, and work toward a resolution. A united GCC bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on counterterror – countering terrorism, defeating ISIS, and countering the spread of Iran’s malign influence.

The Secretary of State recounted the progress achieved under a July 2017 bilateral anti-terrorism finance MoU:

As a result of the memorandum of understanding our countries signed in July, the United States and Qatar have increased information sharing on terrorists and terrorist financiers. We have participated in counterterrorism technical training and taken steps to improve aviation security. We look forward to building on this foundation and implementing next steps.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reaffirmed the U.S.-Qatar relationship in strong terms:

A strong and valued military partner, Qatar is a longtime friend in the region. Even in the midst of its own current challenges, Qatar and the United States maintain excellent military-to-military relations, hosting Al Udeid Air Base, home to our Combined Air Operations Center, the United States Air Force Central Command Forward Headquarters, and U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters, providing critical counterterrorism support to the Defeat ISIS/Defeat Daesh coalition and President Trump’s South Asia strategy.

The Secretary of Defense thanked Qatar for its regional security efforts, and called for a reunified GCC:

We are grateful to Qatar for their longstanding support of America’s present and continuing commitment to regional security, a commitment that includes information sharing and counterterrorism training.

As Secretary Tillerson stated, a united Gulf Cooperation Council bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on countering terrorism, defeating ISIS/Daesh, and countering the spread of Iran’s malign influence. It is thus critical that the GCC recovers its cohesion as the proud Gulf nations return to mutual support through a peaceful resolution that provides for enhanced regional stability and prosperity.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani noted the increasingly close relationship among U.S. and Qatari leadership:

Holding this immensely significant first session of Qatar-U.S. Strategic Dialogue come as an expression and a celebration of the enduring and the close affiliation between our two countries. In a recent January phone call between the President of United States Donald Trump and His Highness the Emir of Qatar, there – they have emphasized their mutual determination to strengthen the bilateral relation. A number of major agreements will be signed today covering defense, trade, investment, and energy – all area where Qatar is committed to investing in America’s economy.

Foreign Minister al-Thani touted the successful investment relationship between the two nations; from infrastructure to education:

Qatar is already investing more than $100 billion in the U.S. economy, including $10 billion earmarked for infrastructure. Qatar and U.S. private sector have devoted substantial resources to the other, U.S. companies doing business in Qatar within construction, energy, and services industry. Qatari companies are investing in the U.S. financial services, health care, and technology markets.

From Qatar hosting six prominent U.S. universities in our education city, to Qatar investment in the LNG Golden Pass in Texas, our countries have shared interests – interests that translate into job opportunities for the American and Qatari people. To make all these investments flourish, regional security is essential. So today we will also discuss a range of security issues, including shared threats and further opportunities of regional cooperation.

Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Muhammad al-Atiyah reaffirmed the U.S.-Qatar alliance:

The state of Qatar has never waived its commitment to stand with friends and allies, especially when the – when they needed us the most. When other in the region were no longer able to accommodate U.S. present of their soil, Qatar eased restriction and expedited its offer to host its ally. Al Udeid airbase, which currently hosts 11,000 of your brave men and women, has been at the epicenter of the global fight against terrorism. Qatar has spared no effort in increasing the readiness and efficiency of Al Udeid operation by investing billions of dollar in the direct infrastructure and maintenance of the strategic airbase.

The Minister of State for Defense Affairs reported that his country values the United States as a trusted ally in security cooperation:

We are looking toward the future of our military partnership with the United States as we plan for the year ahead. Qatar and its trusted ally have reaffirmed their commitment toward the stability and prosperity of both nation. The recent purchased of the F-15s fighter jets signal a new era of cooperation. This strategic bird will assure our readiness to protect our own border and aid our allies further in our collective fight toward peace and stability. Creation of tens of thousand of jobs directs – new jobs, and ten of thousand more of indirect creation job.