French magazine Le Point published on 14 September 2022 an exclusive interview they executed with His Highness Sheikh Tamim.
We are a small country geographically, but every country, big or small, plays a role in current events around the world. We seek, through our foreign policy in the State of Qatar, to bring the divergent views closer, to help all parties that need assistance, and to play the role of mediator in the region and beyond. The world needs dialogue to solve its problems, and the best example of this is what we achieved recently in Afghanistan, when our American friends asked us for help in communicating with Afghans in order to reach a peaceful solution to the war, and this is what we did. Add to this the important role that the State of Qatar plays in the field of energy, as it is a credible supplier in this field, and we are proud of our commitment to the agreements we signed during the past decades, including agreements in the gas sector, as we supply a large number of countries with gas, from Argentina to Japan.
Education is an essential pillar, especially in a country with natural resources. We also learned from our history. Until the thirties of the last century, our country was a center for pearling and its trade, before Japan developed pearl cultivation. Our country became impoverished, forcing a large number of Qataris to work in neighboring countries, while starvation was shared by many who chose to stay. . We discovered oil at the beginning of the forties, then we began extracting and exporting it after the end of World War II, but oil is a limited resource. When we discovered gas in the 1970s, its market value was low due to everyone’s interest in oil, so we had to take a risk and invest a lot of money in liquefaction facilities. But the most important lesson of all this is that resources are not eternal, investing can help, especially through a sovereign wealth fund, but the most important thing is investing in ourselves – in human capital.
Education is the answer, rich or poor. We are developing our schools and universities, we have invited American and European universities and colleges to open branches here, and we have begun to diversify our economy by focusing on nine pillars including technology, health, science, tourism, and others. We have great confidence in our strong economy, and we hope to be prepared for all scenarios in the future.
Everyone talks about the USA and China, but I don’t think we can compare them to the empires of the past. Our era is different, and strength is measured in education, the economy and culture as well. The United States of America is a great power, not only at the military level, but also at the economic, creative and scientific level… As for China, it will be a rising power in the future thanks to its strong economy and population.
We do not want to see the world divided between two superpowers because that would be a great danger. But I don’t think it’s happening right now, and I hope it never will. Qatar is an important ally of the United States of America and Western countries in general, but China is the first importer of Qatari liquefied natural gas.
We cannot ignore the great disparities between the two countries, but we hope that the tensions will be resolved through diplomatic and peaceful means. Our world today is witnessing many divisions, and the last thing we want is to see new divisions.
Of course, the European Union is very important, and we have excellent relations with most European countries, they are our allies, and our cooperation includes trade, culture and military cooperation. We consider the European Union and the countries affiliated with it as an essential factor in maintaining global security.
I don’t want to talk about the past, we want to look to the future. We are in a new phase where things are going in the right direction. We realize that perspectives can sometimes differ, and we are preparing for the future with the GCC, which is key to unlocking the potential of youth in the region. Our unity and cooperation are important to the whole world, and the Gulf Cooperation Council is going through a period of recovery after great shock and turmoil, but today we are on the right track.
In all honesty, as I told you before, I see no point in talking about the past. You mentioned Iran, a very important country with which we have a historical relationship, in addition to the major gas field that we share with it. We encourage all GCC countries and Iran to keep channels of communication open. It is true that differences exist for everyone, but we must sit together and discuss them with the Iranians directly and without any outside interference.
This relationship does not exist, and there are no active members of the Muslim Brotherhood or any related groups on Qatari soil. We are an open country, and a large number of people with different opinions and ideas pass through it, but we are a country and not a party, and we deal with countries and their legitimate governments, not with political organizations.
Bringing together parties with different opinions is part of our policy. With regard to the Taliban, we played the role of mediator in response to the request of our American friends. Negotiations continued for years and witnessed many ups and downs. Undoubtedly, what happened last year was unexpected. But in general, we cooperated closely with the United States of America and a number of European countries, including France. Regarding the Iranian issue, we have not received an official request, but we are in constant contact with our American allies and with the Iranians alike, because Iran is a neighboring country. It is our duty and our interest to do everything in our power to bring the parties together and encourage them to reach a peaceful settlement. We do not set limits in front of ourselves when choosing the dialogue parties, provided they believe in peaceful coexistence. and violent groups.
We have taken risks and invested in the gas sector since the eighties and nineties of the last century, knowing that it is a source of energy that will be of great importance in the future. We repeated the same thing a few years ago by increasing our production of liquefied natural gas, although the global trend at that time was towards eliminating these sources and focusing on energy sources that are considered “clean”, such as solar and wind energy. But I assure you that gas is also a source of clean energy, and it is very important for the upcoming transitional period. The war in Europe complicates matters in an unprecedented way, but the problem was already there. As for the State of Qatar, we mainly export energy to Asian countries and to European countries as well, based on long-term agreements in addition to immediate agreements. We want to help European countries and will supply them with gas in the coming years, but those who think that we can replace Russian gas are mistaken, because it is an important source for the global market.
This is true, as gas will play a very important role in the transitional period and in the diversification of energy sources in the long term, as it is a source of clean energy: For example, we have invested huge amounts of money in technology that captures carbon and reduces flaring. And we must not forget that we are talking about our problems, while there are a billion people in the world today who do not have access to electricity.
We have to tread carefully with sanctions that complicate matters for the whole world. In this particular case, I cannot assess the correctness of the European decision or not, but we all see the problems caused by the lack of energy supplies on the European continent today. The most important thing is that we are all suffering from the status quo, both on the energy level and on the nutritional level, and for this reason, the war in Ukraine must end, and we must find a solution.
We are in constant contact with President Macron, and I know that he seeks to end the war. Someone has to talk to both sides to bring them together, and we have to push for dialogue. President Macron is right in his quest, and the same can be said of Turkey, which seeks to bring the two countries closer together.
The Corona pandemic has not been handled in a perfect way. The rich country was able to deal with the crisis, but we were not able to ensure that the poor countries could deal with it. The most important lesson here is that we must work together to solve global issues. Even if the State of Qatar or France possessed the appropriate medicines and health system to provide treatment to their people, we will not be able to overcome the pandemic until all countries of the world overcome it. We don’t want to go back to closing restaurants, airports and train stations, and it’s the same as in the energy sector: too high prices do not please us because they are unfair to consumers, and too low prices do not suit us because it is unfair to producers. International cooperation is necessary for all to benefit. I do not want the phenomenon of globalization to end, and I do not think that it will. Some say that turning back the clock will make life easier, but this is not true; Talking and being responsible are not the same thing, it won’t work.
It is a broad question. There is diversity and we have different cultures, ideas and ethnic groups. It is true that we take religion seriously, and this is reflected in our educational system, but at the same time we are open to other cultures, religions and peoples. Islam is the religion of peace, and we as Muslims accept differences with the other, because we must all coexist in peace. The relationship between the different religions has gone through many tensions, but there is no point in talking about them or adding fuel to the fire. She touched on populist movements or media figures who talk about Islam and raise issues as if there are “us” and “them” in an effort to exploit the phenomenon of Islamophobia, but this approach is not fair because the situation is completely different, as we have a relationship and we deal together in the field of trade and exchange. Whoever visits Europe will notice that the people there are not worried about Islam as much as Muslims are not worried about Christianity. There are in fact a large number of Christians, Jews and followers of other religions who live in Islamic countries and consider themselves part of the Islamic culture, just as there are many Muslims in Western countries. There are many positive things that the world is witnessing today, whether at the level of technology, business, science, commerce or culture as well, and the difficulties we are facing are the exception rather than the rule.
What I am saying is that there are people who exploit the tensions and inequalities of the past for political gain, whether at the local level or to transfer problems to other countries. Politicians are entitled to speak, but I point out here again that when you talk to ordinary people, you will see that they are not worried about the Muslim world or Christianity. We have to avoid these tensions because they never help, and what helps is sitting together for dialogue.
The church was built a long time ago. Christians have lived here for decades and have the right to practice their religious rites. We welcomed them into our country, and they helped us build it. They were practicing their religious rituals in private, but my father decided that they needed a public place, and this place is a complex of several Western, Asian, African churches… where Christians pray daily.
Our position is clear. We reject discrimination against any minority, whether Muslim or not, and in any country. Together we form one world, and this should not be a problem, but some politicians and media people are trying to distort the issue. For this reason, I always say that we should listen to ordinary people.
It is funny when people sometimes talk about “modern”, “conservative” or “liberal” Islam. Islam is a religion, and we know that, but I am personally religiously committed, contemporary and welcoming, and our country and people are modern and welcoming as well. At the same time, we are very proud of our heritage and religion and open to others while maintaining our privacy as well.
We are all equal before God, whether we are men or women. Women play a vital role in our society, and it should be noted that the performance of women in universities in the State of Qatar exceeds their male counterparts, as they constitute 63% of the total number of students, while the percentages are equally distributed at the level of the workforce.
Personally, I believe in freedom of expression and that it should be protected. But if this freedom will deliberately lead to problems or conflicts in the cultural or religious sphere, I wonder if it is necessary; Here, I do not mean anyone who criticizes a minister or a senior official. I have no problem with that, but we must be careful about issues that we know may lead to problems. Everyone has the right to express their opinions, but we must avoid hurting people of different cultures, religions or backgrounds when expressing our opinions. In general, there should be limits to things, but if one says that, some may consider it against freedom of expression, but talking about borders does not mean the same thing, and this topic has become very complicated with the emergence of social media.
It is a good, strong, historical and very solid relationship. We have an excellent mutual understanding with France, and we are proud of it. We cooperate closely in the areas of trade, culture, sports, security, military affairs, and foreign policy. My first visit outside the Middle East after I became crown prince was to France, and the same thing after I became emir of the country. There is an excellent understanding between the two countries, and we are very proud of that.
We are in constant contact, we have met more than once, we also talk on the phone, we share many views on foreign policy, and we seek to cooperate closely in order to promote peace and play a role in achieving stability and providing humanitarian aid when it is needed.
Yes, this is true, our opinions may differ sometimes, but in general, I have noticed that French presidents are always keen to maintain good relations with Qatar.
Our relationship with France is more than one sector, such as the energy sector, but Total Energy is a very important company. We took a risk when we invested in LNG with ExxonMobil and Total, but both companies helped us develop this sector, and we will maintain the partnership in the coming decades, including in projects outside Qatar.
We deal with companies and sign contracts with complete transparency, but we also take into account previous relationships, the risks companies faced with us, and the support they provided us, and we never forget the people, companies and countries that stood by us in difficult times and took risks with us. There are great countries that forget, but we do not forget.
Of course, the field of sports is unique. If you want to invest in any sport, you must be passionate about it, otherwise you will be wasting your money. But the value of the project will increase if it is managed well, and this is what happened with Paris Saint-Germain. Qataris are proud of the ten years they spent with the club, because sport is in our blood.
(His Highness the Prince said smiling) We always joke about this, but there is no problem with that. He loves sports, and I always look forward to discussing sports matters with him. I attended the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia with the president and his wife, and I witnessed their joy when the French national team won.
The Rafale is an exceptional fighter, and we are very pleased to provide it to our pilots. We have been buying military equipment from France for several decades, and we have acquired Mirage planes before we bought the Rafale, and our relationship is not limited to planes only, we have a number of Qatari officer candidates completing their studies in France, and we also participate in joint military exercises with the French army, including the forces of gendarmerie.
It is important to be able to listen and not hesitate. Frequency is a disaster. You don’t have to be stubborn, but when you make a decision and feel it’s the right one, especially after hearing so many opinions, you have to move on with it. And if you realize you’re wrong, you shouldn’t hesitate to back out. It’s always negative when you hesitate, and I learned this lesson from my father. But one can learn the art of leadership from any leader, not just heads of state. Business leaders struggle too, as do sports coaches, and I read a book on the subject by former Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson. The leader’s skill is in dealing with problems, but my role is different because my priority is to protect my people.
Her Majesty was a person to whom I had the utmost respect, and I had the honor to meet her on more than one occasion, our last meeting at Windsor Castle earlier this year. She possessed the best qualities of leadership – candor, integrity, toughness, empathy, and many more. She was good at listening, and had a great sense of humour. Everyone will remember her forever as a woman of great strength, dignity and dedication in the performance of her duties.
I cannot speak for the current Heads of State because most of them are my friends, but my father has been a great inspiration to me because he is a great, generous and brave man who does not hesitate to admit my mistake and has given me many valuable advice. Another leader I have always enjoyed talking with is former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to him several times, and I used to ask him about life, the achievements he made, how he dealt with difficulties, and I learned many things from him and from his books as well. I remember that he visited Qatar before his death, and even tried camel riding.
Qatar is an independent country, and this is very important. I don’t want anyone to view us as supporting one side against another. We are a small country surrounded by large countries. We are also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council and we are proud of our Arab heritage. We do not accept anyone dictating what we do or interfering in our internal affairs. At the same time, we maintain the best relations with everyone, including our neighbours.
We have to take into account the culture of each country. Singapore, for example, has its own model of democracy and governance, and we cannot take this model and impose it on another country. Singapore is an Asian country with its own culture and lifestyle, and this suits it perfectly, as everyone sees it as a developed country. Another example of this is the success that Rwanda has had with President Paul Kagame.
Qatar has a model of its own for more than a century, which we have worked to improve through reforms. For more than 50 years we have had a shura council – on which I rely heavily and whose role is to help us govern the state, which is a very useful role. We have a unique system, and it works perfectly, but I will never hesitate to implement reforms that will benefit my country and my people if I feel they are necessary, because my mission is to protect my people and my country and to ensure that the state is able to overcome any challenges it may face.
The State of Qatar is the first Arab country to organize this global event, and it is a very important event for young people, especially in the Arab world. We will welcome hundreds of thousands of fans in the country, and we welcome everyone, whoever they are and regardless of their origin or culture. We want visitors to learn about the differences between cultures and discover the culture of our country, and we hope that this will prompt them to visit us again.
I think every country should have the opportunity to host sporting events, but sometimes the climate can be a hindrance. We used state-of-the-art technology to reduce water and energy consumption during the World Cup in order to make the tournament more sustainable. For example, Education City Stadium, Lusail Stadium, which will host the final match, and Stadium 974 have been awarded the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) five-star certification by the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.
There are two types of criticism; We often look at it as advice or as a warning, and take it seriously. For example, we realized that we had a problem in terms of working on construction sites, and took decisive action in record time, updating laws and punishing employers who mistreat their workers. We have also opened our doors to NGOs, and we cooperate with them on an ongoing basis, and we are proud of that. As for the other type of criticism, it is the one that continues no matter what we do, and it usually comes from people who do not accept the idea of an Arab Muslim country like Qatar hosting the World Cup, and they will look for any justification to tarnish our reputation.
I would not use this term as it is inappropriate. But when we look at the African continent, we notice that the balance in the relationship is changing as a result of the changes that the continent is experiencing. African public opinion has emerged, more people are acquiring higher education, and it is clear that governance is improving as well. It is true that things are changing, but when we talk about how Western countries view us, we must, in my opinion, take responsibility for ourselves. At the level of our region, the West sometimes views us as a single bloc, as Gulf or Arab countries, and therefore we have to solve our problems ourselves. But there is no doubt that the situation is changing.
(His Highness the Prince said smiling) There are many things that prevent me from sleeping peacefully! But I am extremely proud of my people and everyone who lives on the land of the State of Qatar. We have become stronger after all the hardships we have faced, and we have stood united in the face of these hardships. It is true that unfortunately we live in a turbulent region, but we want to support the youth of the Middle East and give them hope. Today we are doing everything in our power to bring peace to the region, but we still have a long way to go. The most important issue is the Palestinian issue, because peace will not be achieved if a solution is not reached, not to mention Syria, Libya and Yemen… This is what worries me about the youth of the region.
Unfortunately, the deep roots that caused the Arab Spring are still present, such as poverty, unemployment, and unemployed graduates… Have we found solutions to these problems? No, it got worse. If we do not find solutions, the events that caused them in the first place will repeat themselves. I think the best way to avoid future disruptions is to implement reforms gradually. We must give our people real hope, not just words. The State of Qatar has pledged to educate 10 million children who are out of school, and we have exceeded this number, and we will soon reach 15 million children at the primary level. We also have to secure jobs and opportunities, and allow young people to express their opinions and differences.
Each country has the right to establish relations with any other country. But what is normalization with Israel? I speak in all seriousness, is the situation normal in Israel? No, there are still occupied Arab lands and refugees who have not been able to return to their homes for more than 70 years, Muslims and Christians living under siege in the Gaza Strip… When the Oslo agreement was signed, we all believed that peace would come, and we established official relations with Israel, We also opened an Israeli trade office here in Doha, but the wars did not stop in the Gaza Strip… We have to reach a peaceful settlement for the sake of the Palestinian people, give them hope and return their land. We talk to the Israelis, and we provide aid to the residents of Gaza and the West Bank as well. I believe in a two-state solution. Palestinians and Israelis should live side by side, but unfortunately we are far from it.
I have already said that every country has the right to establish relations with any country it chooses. But the Arab League decided to exclude Syria for a good reason, and this reason still exists and has not changed. I am ready to participate in any talks if we have a peace process about the future of Syria and the demands of its people, but that is not the case at the moment. A number of European countries have generously taken in refugees, and I understand that this has caused problems. But why do we accept that a leader commits massacres against his own people and expels millions of refugees from his country? Is this acceptable to us as human beings? And what if we know that these refugees will come to us, what will cause problems? Instead of waiting for the fire to reach our homes, we should act seriously and end the problem in Syria at its core, and the same is true of Libya. If we are not careful, we will face dire consequences.
I am often busy, whether in the office or at home, but I also make sure to spend time with my family and children and exercise. I also love to travel, although I do not have enough time. I also love watching films, especially historical documentaries, and reading biographies or private memoirs, and I have a great interest in history.
I am grateful to them because they taught me humility. When I was 13, my father sent me to Germany to find and pay for sports equipment. He could have asked anyone, but he chose me. Then I realized that this was a way for me to be taught to travel alone and be independent. When I was eight, nine and ten years old, he made me spend the summer with a family in the Belgian city of Malmedy and learn French. Then he sent me to boarding school when I was 17, and I went to Sandhurst Military Academy in Britain, and I learned a lot during that year. I then spent several years in the Qatari Special Forces before my father appointed me crown prince. Discipline and military service are very important, and this is what prompted us to approve national service in the State of Qatar, and today we plan to expand the program to include women as well. It is important to get young people out of their comfort zone and teach them to work hard and get up early in the morning…
Source & cover image credit: Amiri Diwan
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