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August 9, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10748

Russian Ambassador To Qatar Dmitry Dogadkin Praises Qatar For Not Adopting Anti-Russian Stance Regarding Ukraine War, Explains: Relations Between Our Countries Are Increasingly Positive, We Are Cooperating In Every Field

August 9, 2023
Qatar, Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10748

On August 7, 2023, Russia's RIA Novosti outlet published an interview conducted by its Qatar correspondent Yulia Troitskaya with Russian Ambassador to Qatar Dmitry Dogadkin.[1] Ambassador Dogadkin spoke about cooperation in trade, economy, transportation, culture, and security between Russia and Qatar, and described how relations and cooperation between the two countries have been increasing in recent years. He praised Qatar for not adopting an anti-Russian stance with regard to the war in Ukraine despite Western pressure, and he pointed out that Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Aal Thani was the first to hold a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when the war began. In addition, he pointed out that Aal Thani visited Moscow in March 2022. He also said that Qatar is the largest investor in Russia's economy.


Russian Ambassador to Qatar Dmitry Dogadkin.

Following is the translation of the interview with Ambassador Dogadkin published by RIA Novosti:

"With The Coming To Power Of Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Aal Thani In 2013, A Course Was Set For A Multidimensional Development Of A New Content Of Russo-Qatari Relations"

RIA Novosti's Qatar Correspondent Yulia Troitskaya: "August marked the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Qatar. How have relations between the two countries developed over these years? What were the important milestones during this time? What are the prospects for the development of bilateral relations?"

Russian Ambassador to Qatar Dmitry Dogadkin: "For 35 years, the Russian Federation and the State of Qatar have maintained a steady political dialogue based on mutual trust. Nevertheless, the first visit at the level of state leaders took place only in 2001, when Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Aal Thani came on a working visit to Moscow. In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Doha. In economic terms, one of the landmark events was the establishment in 2010 of a joint Russian-Qatari commission on trade, economic and scientific-technical co-operation. In 2013, as part of the visit of Viktor Zubkov, the Russian President's Special Representative for Cooperation with the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), Gazprom's regional representative office in Doha was opened. In the same year, the Qatar Investment Agency acquired a stake in Russian 'VTB' bank. In 2018, a representative office of the oil company 'Rosneft' was opened in the country.

"With the coming to power of Emir Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani in 2013, a course was set for a multidimensional development of a new content of Russo-Qatari relations. The regular nature of contacts at the highest levels facilitated it.

"Since then, the leaders of the two countries have met four times: 'on the margins' of the Olympic Games held in Sochi (2014), during the official visit of Emir Tamim Aal Thani to Moscow (2016), 'on the margins' of the ceremony of transferring the right to host the FIFA World Cup to Qatar (Moscow, 2018), 'on the margins' of the 5th Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (Dushanbe, 2019). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made four working visits to Qatar (in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021).

"In March of 2022 and June of 2023, Mohammed bin Abderrahman Aal Thani, the Emirate's Foreign Minister, paid a visit to Moscow. Important representatives of the executive and legislative branches of the Russian government, representatives of leading Russian state-owned companies and business structures visit Doha on a regular basis.

"Mutual interest in the development of a promising bilateral partnership was noted during the visits to Doha of the Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin during the 140th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (April 2019), the head of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation Vladimir Kolokoltsev (December 2019), of the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev (February 2020). The year 2018 came as a cross-cultural year between our countries, it provided the residents of Qatar with the opportunity to get acquainted with the culture of the peoples of Russia, tourism potential, national cuisine, cinema art, while Russians had an opportunity to learn about the emirate.  Thanks to such events and the aspirations of the two peoples, the mutual tourist flow has significantly increased."

"There Is Also Close Co-Operation And Co-Ordination Between Our Countries On Regional Issues – I Would Like To Note In Particular The Convergence Of The Countries' Stances On The Palestinian Question"

"On the 15th of July 2018, the FIFA World Cup baton passing ceremony took place: the cooperation between our countries on the organization of the 2022 World Cup began. Fruitful co-operation was established between the relevant public and private structures, including the security agencies, which made a significant contribution to ensuring a high level of security during the sports festival. We note in particular that Doha, despite the current tense international political situation and all attempts to isolate Russia, has taken a firm stance on the establishment of the Russian Fan Zone.

"There is also close co-operation and co-ordination between our countries on regional issues. I would like to note in particular the convergence of the countries' stances on the Palestinian question. We highly appreciate Doha's mediation efforts to resolve regional and international conflicts by political and diplomatic means, including by providing a platform for negotiations.

"Today, relations between Russia and Qatar are developing successfully, this is also true for co-operation in the economic, political, and humanitarian fields. I can state that this relationship has enormous potential and bright prospects."

Yulia Troitskaya: "Qatar is a very young country, but is there anything that Russia could learn from it or learn from its experience?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "Qatar is a rapidly developing country, its growth rate is truly impressive, and this is true almost for all areas. Moreover, the Emirate is not going to stop at what it has achieved and makes truly ambitious plans.

"I would like to point out that rapid development and reforms in no way damaged the cultural identity, religious values and traditional way of life of the local population. Qataris are a nation that looks forward to an ambitious future, while at the same time upholding its traditions."

Yulia Troitskaya: "How important are for Russia now relations with Qatar? What makes this country unique compared to other Arab states in the Persian Gulf?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "Russia's relations with the member-states of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC) have acquired a strategic nature in recent years. Qatar, as an integral member of the Council, is one of our key partners in the Middle East. Doha is an important player in the liquefied natural gas market, and we coordinate our actions with it, including under the framework of the GECF [Gas Exporting Countries Forum]. The Emirate is the largest investor in the Russian economy. What's more, the leadership of the monarchy has taken a firm position in terms of not joining anti-Russian sanctions after the start of the special military operation in Ukraine.

"We are trying to maintain contacts on international and via regional platforms. One example is the recent meeting of the Russia-GCC strategic dialogue, where a number of topical issues of mutual interest were discussed, in particular the creation of a sustainable system of collective security in the Gulf region in order to effectively counter numerous challenges and threats."

Yulia Troitskaya: "What are the indicators of bilateral cooperation, in particular, trade turnover, cooperation in economic investment and trade spheres for the last year or the last few years? Is there any growth? What, in your opinion, should be done to better utilize the potential of bilateral economic and trade cooperation?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "After the lifting of restrictions related to the COVID-19 infection, which caused a global decline in trade and economic relations, we were able to confidently reach pre-pandemic indicators and even surpass them. In 2022, Russia increased exports of food and agricultural products (especially environmentally friendly ones) to the Qatari market by more than 50%. In the first quarter of 2023, trade turnover between Russia and Qatar totaled almost 70 million Qatari riyals.

"We consider co-operation in transport and logistics as a promising area. First of all, I'm talking about the implementation of the 'North-South' international transport corridor project.

"Our co-operation in the investment sphere is expanding. Qatar Investment Authority invests in leading Russian companies. We are successfully developing our partnership with the Russian Direct Investment Fund. A number of joint projects worth more than 160 billion rubles or 7.2 billion Qatari riyals are being developed."

Yulia Troitskaya: "Can it be argued that Qatar and Russia are intensifying co-operation in various areas? If so, in which specific areas, in which directions this is happening and what are examples of it?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "As I've already mentioned, this includes the trade and economy sphere, investments, transport, and logistics. Co-operation in the agricultural sector is also developing steadily: supplies of barley and sunflower oil to Qatar have been resumed. Miratorg [Agribusiness Holding, one of the largest agricultural companies in Russia, owned by oligarch Matvey Yozhikov] and other major Russian producers, who supply halal poultry and beef are actively operating at the Qatari market."

"After The Start Of The SVO, Qatar's Prime Minister And Foreign Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Aal Thani Was The First To Hold A Telephone Conversation With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov And Paid A Working Visit To Moscow In March Of 2022 – Qatar Refused To Join The Anti-Russian Camp, Taking A Neutral Stance"

Yulia Troitskaya: "Has there been any change in the attitude of Qatar and its leadership towards Russia since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine? [the SVO] What's Qatar stance towards the course of the operation?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "After the start of the SVO, Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Aal Thani was the first to hold a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and paid a working visit to Moscow in March of 2022. Qatar refused to join the anti-Russian camp, taking a neutral stance. The leadership of this state has repeatedly offered its mediation in resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, emphasizing the country's commitment to a settlement via political and diplomatic means in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter. We very much appreciate these efforts.

"Despite the changing world political and economic situation, the launched anti-Russian campaign and tremendous pressure from Western countries, Qatar and Russia remain interested in developing bilateral relations in all areas. Our joint efforts are now focused on maintaining the positive dynamics of trade turnover and developing co-operation in the investment sphere."

Yulia Troitskaya: "Has the rivalry, competition between Qatar and Russia for oil and gas markets intensified over the past year? Has Qatar managed to push Russia out of some markets, taking into account the geopolitical situation? Is it possible to assume that competition between the two states for gas supplies will increase in the coming years?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "There is no doubt that all hydrocarbons-producing countries compete for markets. Wherein, we should not forget that Qatar is primarily the largest producer of LNG [liquefied natural gas], while Russia traditionally has been focusing its efforts on pipeline supplies. The share of liquefied natural gas in our country's total exports is miniscule. For Doha, the Asia-Pacific region continues to be the main export destination. The share of oil supplies in the emirate's [total] hydrocarbons exports is insignificant.

"Speaking about competition in general, I would also like to mention a positive moment: co-operation within the framework of specialized structures, in particular, GECF [Gas Exporting Countries Forum]."

Yulia Troitskaya: "After the FIFA World Cup, Qatar plans to host many other international and regional competitions, in particular the Asian Football Cup. Does the country have any interest in cooperating with Russia on preparation and organization of such events? Will Russian specialists help Qatar to host the Asian Football Cup?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "I believe that Doha will definitely have no problems with the organization of the Asian Cup, considering the experience acquired during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Be that as it may, provided there will be a request, the Russian corresponding structures are always ready to provide the necessary assistance and share their experience. I would like to take this opportunity to invite football fans to attend the friendly match between Russia and Qatar, which will be held in Doha on 12 September this year."

Yulia Troitskaya: "Has the interest of Russian tourists in visiting Qatar increased after the FIFA World Cup? Is the tourist flow between the two countries increasing? Earlier there was talk of launching charter flights from Qatar to Russia, are these plans still in place?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "Yes, we are recording a steady increase in tourist traffic from Russia. Naturally, spending holidays in Qatar are far from being an affordable option [for Russians], but the interest of our citizens in this small country is growing. This is especially noticeable among those who use Doha as a transit ‘hub'. Of course, the current agreement on reciprocal 90 days-long visa-free regime for Russian and Qatari citizens contributed to the increase in the number of tourists. The availability of new tourist infrastructure created for the FIFA World Cup is an undoubted competitive advantage too.

"Qatar Airways currently maintains 12 direct flights per week between Doha and Moscow, but the issues of expanding the geography of flights, as well as the opening of charter flights, have long been at the spotlight of our bilateral agenda."

Yulia Troitskaya: "What events in Russia are Qatari delegations expected to participate in this year? What about events in Qatar?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "For many years Qatari delegations of various levels have been taking part in almost all major events in Russia. This includes SPIEF [St. Petersburg International Economic Forum], 'KazanForum' [economic forum held in Kazan, Tatarstan], and the Eastern Economic Forum. International educational conferences and various cultural events are of great interest for Quatar. For example, in July, Qatari designers took part in an ethno-show in the city of Bolgar (Tatarstan).

"We are confident that Doha will maintain and increase its interest in participating in exhibitions and conferences in Russia, in particular in the large-scale physical-digital project 'Future Games' to be held in the Republic of Tatarstan."

Yulia Troitskaya: "The Arab states of the Persian Gulf, i.e., Qatar's neighbors, are striving to enter 'space race,' and for this purpose they resort to the assistance of leading powers, including Russia. Has Qatar expressed a desire to co-operate in the space sphere with Russia, in which areas does this co-operation exist?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "There is no doubt that Qatar has an interest in this area. In January of this year, a delegation from the 'Roscosmos' corporation [the Russian space corporation tasked with space programs] headed by its Director General Yuri Borisov paid its first visit to Doha. It is too early to talk about any agreements, but we believe that there are promising prospects."

Yulia Troitskaya: "Is the transition to national currencies in settlements between the two countries possible, or has such a practice already been implemented?"

Ambassador Dogadkin: "I think that in time, yes. Russia proposes to diversify the trade between the two countries and switch to the use of national currencies [in settlements]. Our relevant agencies develop this issue."

 

[1] Ria.ru/20230807/sanktsii-1888549995.html, August 7, 2023.

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