The United States has officially designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, a move that upgrades the partnership between Doha and Washington and gives the Gulf country special economic and military privileges in its relationship with the US.
US President Joe Biden issued a presidential declaration formally announcing the change on Thursday afternoon, weeks after a pledge he made to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the White House in late January.
Biden said at that time that designating Qatar a major non-NATO ally of the US aimed “to reflect the importance of our relationship; I think it’s long overdue”.
Qatar is now the third country in the Gulf region after Kuwait and Bahrain to become a US major non-NATO ally.
The US State Department says on its website that the designation “is a powerful symbol of the close relationship the United States shares with those countries and demonstrates our deep respect for the friendship for the countries to which it is extended”.
The US and Qatar have had close relations for years, collaborating on a number of issues, including the evacuation of Afghan refugees following the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August.
Thursday’s declaration comes amid global concern over energy supplies and surging fuel prices caused by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Amid a slew of sanctions against Moscow, the Biden administration this week imposed a ban on all Russian oil and gas imports. The European Union, which relies on Russia for much of its natural gas, also promised to dramatically decrease the bloc’s dependence on Moscow by year’s end.
Qatar is one of the largest producers of liquified natural gas (LNG).