Qatar to invest $5bn in Iraq projects after Emir's trip to Baghdad

Doha is considering energy deals as Baghdad expands its ties with regional countries

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani welcomes Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, to Baghdad. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Qatar will invest $5 billion in various projects in Iraq in the coming years, the country's Emir Sheikh Tamim announced on Thursday during a visit to Iraq to strengthen bilateral relations.

The two countries signed various economic agreements on Thursday, Sheikh Tamim said during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani.

Sheikh Tamim arrived in Baghdad on Thursday for a visit aimed at improving relations, discussing co-operation on Iraq's largest megaproject near the southern port city of Basra and an ongoing project to connect the country's electricity grid with that of countries in the Gulf-Co-operation Council.

Mr Al Sudani greeted Sheikh Tamim at Baghdad International Airport before the pair witnessed the signing of a number of agreements at the Presidential Palace in the capital's Green Zone.

“We discussed today the economic opportunities that are available to the Qatari companies within our plans for reconstruction, public services and infrastructure,” Mr Al Sudani said. He added that Qatar is one of Iraq's strongest allies.

“Iraq today, thank God, enjoys political and security stability what makes it a promising place for work and that’s what we discussed today.”

Sheikh Tamim said the pair “discussed ways to boost relations in number of important fields such as energy, investment, trade and development” and added that the two countries would work on increasing trade exchange.

Private sector actors in both countries signed agreements in energy, electricity, housing, hotels and hospital management, he said.

“There are number of Qatari parties that have investments in Iraq and the state of Qatar intends to continue looking for investment opportunities that are available to boost economic co-operation between the two countries,” Sheikh Tamim added.

The leaders also discussed connecting southern Iraq's electricity grid with that of the Gulf to meet the demand for power in Iraq, the Emir said.

Thursday's trip holds “significant political and economic dimensions”, Iraqi government spokesman Bassim Al Awadi said.

Mr Al Awadi on Wednesday told state TV the visit “is a positive and effective gesture that will push the Iraqi-Qatari relations forward”.

“Iraq and Qatar are seeking to enhance co-operation in the fields of investment and energy, in petrochemical industries, as well as co-operation in maritime transport.”

Late last month, Qatar was invited to a conference in Baghdad to launch an ambitious transport project that will connect Asia to Europe and enhance regional co-operation and economic opportunities.

Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan were also invited to discuss the establishment of the $17 billion Development Road initiative.

The huge infrastructure project will connect southern Iraq to the border with Turkey, from where it will connect to rail and road networks in Europe.

Other discussions covered co-operation in security and intelligence “to protect our joint security and the security and stability of the region”, Mr Al Sudani said.

As to the Development Road project, Mr Al Sudani described it as a “vital project for Iraq and the region and it is an opportunity for economic partnership, and we are happy with the serious desire of the state of Qatar to engage and participate in this project”.

Both signed a letter of intent for co-operation in the fields of politics, the economy, energy, oil and investment, Mr Al Sudani said. More deals will be signed between the private sectors of both countries in energy and the state-run Investment Commission for housing projects, he added.

Improving relations

Relations between Iraq and Gulf Co-operation Countries have improved in recent years after they were severed following the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1990.

Subsequent to the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam’s regime, GCC governments dealt with the new pro-Iran government in Baghdad with caution.

But in recent years, relations started to improve with GCC governments reopening their embassies and exchanging visits by senior delegations to foster bilateral relations.

At the Qatar Economic Forum last month, Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdel Ghani announced that Qatari companies were interested in participating in obtaining rights for oil and gas exploration in his country.

Mr Abdel Ghani said that he had discussed projects in Iraq with his Qatari counterpart, mainly the upcoming bidding round for 13 sites. Of those, eight are oil and gasfields and five are exploration sites.

QatarEnergy recently took significant steps towards strengthening its presence in Iraq’s energy sector.

It acquired a 25 per cent stake in the Gas Growth Integrated Project in Iraq, which aims to harness natural gas resources in the country.

It is teaming up with Basra Oil Company and TotalEnergies.

Updated: June 15, 2023, 6:46 PM