Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is meeting United States President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, to discuss regional security in the Gulf and mutual economic ties, among other issues.
The emir’s visit on Tuesday comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US and an ongoing blockade imposed on Qatar by its Arab neighbours.
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The two leaders are scheduled to participate in an afternoon of meetings that will include a working lunch and the signing of a deal for Qatar to purchase Boeing jets.
Trump told reporters in the morning that Qatar is investing heavily in the US, buying military equipment and commercial planes.
Tuesday’s meeting takes place a day after the emir held talks with acting US Defence Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon and attended a dinner banquet hosted by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, where Trump was also present.
In a speech during the dinner, Qatar’s emir said that his visit to the US reaffirmed the ideals the two countries shared and celebrated their mutual economic partnership.
“Our nations share a commitment to human capital, working to create resilient, knowledge-based economies with an emphasis on education, openness and opportunity for all,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there are some in my region who do not share our beliefs. In today’s world, at times, alliances have to be made with necessary partners, and certain allies are not actually friends,” he also said, in an apparent reference to his country’s Arab neighbours that are part of the blockade.
“But with the United States and Qatar, we are partners, allies and friends. We continue our mutual commitment to remain closely invested in both military and security alliance.”
The blockading countries have accused Doha of having strong ties with Iran, interfering in regional affairs and supporting “terrorism”. Qatar has strongly denied these allegations.
Majed al-Ansari, a professor at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera that the US wants to keep pushing for a resolution to the Gulf dispute without any further escalation in the region.
“What the White House would like to do now is not to get tangled in the GCC crisis and give every player in the game the correct amount of interest in the region,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose members include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
Trump said at Monday’s dinner that his friendship with the emir predated his own entry into politics.
“Tamim, you’ve been a friend of mine for a long time, before I did this presidential thing, and we feel very comfortable with each other,” the US president said.
“Investments that you make in the United States – one of the largest in the world – are very much appreciated,” Trump added.
Al-Ansari believes that in recent months the White House has shown its appreciation for the role Qatar plays in the region.
“For the past couple of months, there is an increasing positive attitude towards Qatar in DC and especially by the White House team,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Qatar is actively working in mediation between Iran and the United States as well as between the Taliban and Washington,” al-Ansari also said.
“American interest in the region is being helped a lot by Qatari initiatives and this is likely to be the main topic in the meeting.”
Tensions have risen between Iran and the US in recent months after Washington unilaterally withdrew last year from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran and deployed troops and military hardware to the Middle East to counter what US officials called Iranian threats.
Iran has recently passed the uranium enrichment cap set in its 2015 nuclear deal, marking the second time in a week that it made good on a promise to reduce compliance with the pact following the US exit last year.
Earlier this week, Qatar hosted talks between the Taliban and Afghan leaders in Doha.
The so-called intra-Afghan dialogue, sponsored by Qatar and Germany, between Afghan politicians, civil society members, including women, and the Taliban is seen as a substantive step towards peace in Afghanistan.