The new emir of the State of Qatar has made his first public address since taking over from his father, who he praised as the architect of the Gulf State.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Wednesday addressed his nation and international audiences in a speech that promised to continue with his father’s reform agenda and growth projects.
Later the same day, a major cabinet reshuffle was announced with former Minister of State for Internal Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani being named Prime Minister and Interior Minister, while Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah named as Foreign Minister.
In his address, Sheikh Tamim said that Qatar would avoid sectarianism and respect all religions in the region and the world, as religious divisions would prevent modernisation and development.
“We are not part of any regional trend against any other,” he said.
“Qatar is committed to its promises and relations, but we have a vision and we don’t wait for orders from anyone.”
He said that Qatar was committed to the cause of Palestine, and would work to end Israeli occupation.
In a speech that largely focused on domestic affairs, the young emir, who is assuming the leadership role at the age of 33, said the the development and training of human capital was key to the success of Qatar and that he wanted to increase the productivity of the nation, not just its wealth.
Sheikh Tamim also said that Qatar’s new-found position on the world stage should be met with humbleness.
Conspicuous by its absence in the speech was any mention of specific policies in places such as Syria, Egypt and Libya.
Michael Stephens, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, told Al Jazeera that Sheikh Tamim had been taking a lead role in Qatar’s affairs since 2011, and that foreign policy was unlikely to change significantly.
“The processes were under way for almost two years, if you actually look at where Tamim’s executive power started to assert itself, we’ve seen since 2011 a number of emiri decrees that Tamim himself had signed.
“He’s going to have to take some time to assert himself, particularly in the foreign sphere. For now, the main foreign policy tracks have been set.”
Qatar’s well-documented involvement in events across the region means that the new emir cannot just u-turn and change policy, Stephens said.
“The cabinet reshuffles certainly indicate that the leadership is looking towards a focus on internal issues and to move the country forward as it develops rapidly,” said Stephens.
“On the foreign affairs issue he made mention of the fact that in the region he wants to make a new start and build relationships with other countries.”
The new emir is widely thought to be more conservative than his father, which Stephens said was likely to be reassuring for Qataris.
“Conservative in terms of social tendencies does not necessarily mean that you are going to undo all of the work that’s been done or that you’ll slow the pace of reform,” he said.
“In terms of respecting Qataris and their wishes for their culture and identity to be maintained this is important and indeed many have said to me that that is what they are looking for.”
Sheikh Tamim has taken over from his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who took the unusual decision to hand over power to his son after 18 years of power.