Thursday August 31, 2017
Two of the world’s largest energy producers have vowed to increase trade relations. Qatar is under pressure amid an economic boycott by neighboring Gulf states over its alleged support of terrorism.
Qatar and Russia announced the new agreement, which will see closer trade ties, during a visit by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the Gulf Nation on Wednesday.
Lavrov made the commitment after a meeting in Doha with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
The Russian foreign minister told reporters that Moscow "attached great importance" to economic and energy cooperation between the two countries.
Sheikh Mohammed, for his part, said Qatar could no longer rely on neighboring states to support its economy or guarantee food security.
The two nations are among the world's top oil and gas producing countries.
Last year, Qatar bought a stake worth billions in Russia's state-controlled oil company, Rosneft.
Qatar is looking to expand its economic relations after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirate severed diplomatic and trade ties with the Gulf nation in June.
The Arab countries accused Qatar of destabilizing the region by supporting "terrorists," a charge dismissed by Doha.The diplomatic rift, aimed at isolating Qatar, has disrupted supply chains and affected flow of goods into the tiny emirate. The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday transportation costs in Qatar have gone up about 9 percent and food prices have risen 2 percent due to the boycott.
'Arab allies not willing to negotiate'
With no signs of tensions easing, Sheikh Mohammed said his country was willing to negotiate an end to the diplomatic crisis, but had seen no sign that Saudi Arabia and its allies were open to mediation.
"Qatar maintains its position that this crisis can only be achieved through a constructive dialogue ... but the blockading counties are not responding to any efforts being conducted by Kuwait or other friendly countries," the Qatari Foreign Minister told reporters at a news conference with his Russian counterpart.
Lavrov - who has also visited Kuwait and the UAE as part of his Middle East tour - called for all parties to find a solution.
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He said if face-to-face negotiations started, Russia would be ready to contribute to the mediation.
"It's in our interests for the GCC to be united and strong," the Russian top diplomat said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Russia has long sought to establish itself as a major player in the region’s affairs, most notably in Syria’s six-year civil war, where it backs President Bashar al-Assad.