This is my first visit to Doha as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. I am very thankful for having had the opportunity of meeting with His Highness, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and I just had a good meeting with my friend the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, continuing our talks in New York last week.
But I came here to underline the very good bilateral relations that the European Union and Qatar have, and appreciate a lot your cooperation on important global issues.
Qatar is a good friend of Europe. We are your second biggest trading partner; you are a reliable energy provider, and, on these times, it is especially important, and we work jointly on several regional issues. But I believe that there is potential to do more together at the regional level and globally, and we want to explore these possibilities.
Allow me to announce that the European Union will soon open a Delegation in Doha, next year. This will be an important event in order to boost our ties. We will also soon sign an Agreement on Civil Aviation. Qatar will be the first country in the Gulf with whom we conclude such an Aviation Agreement. This will bring our people closer and generate new jobs.
Being here, I want specially to express our deep gratitude for the crucial role that Qatar and Qatar Airways played in helping with the repatriations of European Union citizens twice. First, at the worst moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you were playing an important role, your planes and your hub, your airport, to repatriate our people; and recently, with the evacuation of European Union citizens and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul.
I have to congratulate you also for the Shura Council elections that took place in October. We welcome this important step and I wish the Qatari Government and Qatari people success in them.
Also, the improvement of migrant workers’ rights, which we have encouraged and welcomed. And also I want to congratulate for your overall good progress on COVID-19 vaccination. I am glad that Qatar was added to the list of safe countries to travel to Europe.
I think that we have an ambition for a broader and more strategic partnership with Qatar.
This includes the big issues of our time: climate change, green transition, renewable energy, connectivity and to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have the COP26 in Glasgow soon and we are launching this Global Methane Pledge, setting a global reduction target of at least 30% below 2020 levels, and we hope that Qatar can join in this effort.
But, certainly, Afghanistan has played a very important role in our talks, because Qatar is a country that plays a strategic role in dealing with the new situation in Afghanistan.
You are playing an important role in facilitating interactions with the authorities in Kabul and the Western world.
You did it during the evacuations; you are doing that keeping the airport in Kabul open, and I am sure you will continue doing that ensuring not only safe passage for those who need, but also the delivery of humanitarian support and also with all contacts and engagement needed in support of the Afghan people.
You are going to play a very important role in facilitating messaging to the Taliban about the expectations of the international community, and particularly from the European Union.
A second issue of mutual interest is the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). This is a key moment for the nuclear deal, and we continue working towards a quick resumption of the negotiations in Vienna. There, also, Qatar can play an important role on pushing these negotiations to resume as soon as possible. We both know that the Iranians are ready to re-engage, to resume the negotiations, but it has to be done as quickly as possible.
Last but not least, we also had the opportunity to talk about the situation in the Gulf, where I am very much pleased to see the normalisation of relations among the Gulf Cooperation Council members that we have always encouraged.
To sum up, this is a good moment to stress the importance of the relationship between the European Union and Qatar. We have done a lot; we have to do still more.
The world is waiting for Qatar role in solving one of the biggest challenges of our time.