US President Barack Obama has praised Qatar as a “strong partner” in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as he hosted Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, in the Oval Office.
“Qatar is a strong partner in our coalition to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL,” said Obama.
“We are both committed to making sure that ISIL is defeated, to making sure that in Iraq there is an opportunity for all people to live together in peace,” Obama added.
Qatar is host to a large US military base, but the two countries are sometimes uneasy allies.
Qatar has criticism, including from neighbouring Gulf Arab states, of using its wealth to back armed groups in the region, an accusation it strongly denies.
Speaking last year, the emir said: “What is happening in Iraq and Syria is extremism and such organisations are partly financed from abroad, but Qatar has never supported and will never support terrorist organisations.”
“There are areas where we disagree with the Qataris” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, adding there were more areas where interests “overlap”.
Speaking after the meeting, the emir also praised the strong bilateral relationship, and urged efforts to advance the Middle East peace process.
“We have to find a solution for Palestine. And I’m happy to learn, to hear from you Mr President, that you’re committed,” he said.
Libya and Yemen were also discussed.
Lori Plotkin Boghardt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said: “The bottom line is that Washington and Doha share an exceptionally strong strategic partnership.
“Washington and Doha certainly have a number of important differences, but we’ve seen over and over again that the strategic partnership between the two allies ultimately trumps in importance almost all of those differences.”