France and Qatar make joint call for ceasefire in Gaza as they celebrate partnership

In his first state visit to the European nation, Sheikh Tamim pledges to invest €10bn in its economy

Emir of Qatar meets PSG's Kylian Mbappe at Elysee Palace

Emir of Qatar meets PSG's Kylian Mbappe at Elysee Palace
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Diplomatic co-operation and efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza were at the heart of the first half of a two-day state visit to France by Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim.

Amid a flurry of announcements signalling a deepening of economic, security and cultural ties between the two countries, French President Emmanuel Macron described the Gulf country as a “friend” and a “loyal strategic partner”.

Paris and Doha's 50-year-old relations are rooted in “the same attachment to peace and international order, the same commitment for the development of diplomatic solutions”, said Mr Macron.

Speaking to Sheikh Tamim at a state dinner attended by more than a hundred Qatari and French officials, Mr Macron lauded the Qatari Emir's “personal role” in strengthening ties between the two countries.

“I want to reiterate my gratitude for your crucial role and the role of your diplomacy … in freeing hostages [in Gaza] and, in particular, our hostages,” said Mr Macron on Tuesday. “You have already done so much.”

There are three French citizens among the 130 hostages, including 31 presumed dead, that remain in Gaza after they were captured by Hamas on October 7.

This is the first official visit by a Qatari head of state to France since Sheikh Tamim's father, Sheikh Hamad, was hosted by Nicolas Sarkozy, French president at the time, in 2009.

The dinner reportedly included caviar and blue lobster from Brittany as the Republican Guard played Arabic music.

Sheikh Tamim said that he “could not imagine a stronger partner in Europe to put pressure to bring justice regarding a two-state solution, a state of Palestine and Israel”.

Qatar and France also jointly pledged $200 million to support Palestinians.

Hunger, genocide and displacement

Speaking in Arabic, Sheikh Tamim said in his speech that “current dangers” in the Middle East were “worse than in the past.”

“The world is witnessing a genocide of the Palestinian people. The weapon of hunger is being used, as well as forced displacement and savage bombing,” he said.

“We are in a race against time to return all the hostages to their families and, at the same time, we must work to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Israel rejects accusations of genocide and accuses Hamas of being responsible for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza by using civilians as human shields.

Mediators from Qatar, Egypt and the US are engaged in the biggest diplomatic push in weeks for a ceasefire in the embattled enclave and a swap of prisoners and hostages.

Yet there is still uncertainty about the prospects of a cessation of hostilities despite US President Joe Biden saying earlier this week that Israel was ready to halt its military offensive during Ramadan, which starts next month.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, in parallel, ordered his troops to prepare an offensive against the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

In a joint press statement, France and Qatar repeated their calls for an immediate ceasefire and their opposition to an Israeli attack on Rafah.

The two countries called for “the opening of all crossing points, including in the north of the Gaza Strip, to allow humanitarian actors to resume their activities and in particular the distribution of food”, said the statement.

However, Gaza was not the only focus of meetings between French and Qatari officials as they also discussed the strengthening of economic, security and cultural ties.

New investments

Qatar announced $10 billion in investments in French start-ups and investment funds.

“Our choices are made exclusively on economic bases and the benefits that will be made for the benefit of our two countries and our two peoples,” said Sheikh Tamim.

Mr Macron thanked Qatar for stepping up its energy exports to Europe and France after Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused an energy crisis across the continent.

He also expressed gratitude for Qatar's “attachment to the respect of international law against an illegal aggression” and its “support for the Ukrainian people and the reliability of [its] support for Europe's energy sovereignty”.

QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies signed a 27-year LNG supply agreement in October, Qatar's largest and longest European gas deal. Deliveries are expected to start in 2026.

Qatar and France also have a close relationship when it comes to sports. The Paris Saint-Germain football club is owned by a Qatari entity.

PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi attended the state dinner with star player Kylian Mbappe.

“Good luck,” Sheikh Tamim told Mbappe, according to French daily Le Parisien, which speculated that the Emir might have been referring to the player's departure from PSG, which was announced on February 15.

Also present among the guests was French Culture Minister Rachida Dati, who is expected to travel soon to Qatar.

The national museum in Doha was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, whose inspiration, the desert rose crystal, was mentioned by Mr Macron.

“I know Qatar's special attachment to French culture, to the quality of the links that our cultural institutions maintain, notably in the splendid museums of Doha, which I had the pleasure of visiting with my wife,” he said.

Additionally, Qatar has additionally offered to support France's security deployment during this summer's Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games after Paris helped with security at the 2022 Fifa World Cup, which the Gulf state hosted.

"We are impatient to attend [the Games] and encourage athletes during this memorable occasion," he said.

Updated: February 28, 2024, 12:52 PM