The article of the Russian Ambassador H.E.Mr. Nurmakhmad Kholov on the new prospects of the Russian-Qatari relations (“The Peninsula”, 04.02.2014)
Qatar and Russia: new horizons of the bilateral relations
The Russian-Qatari relations, which have recently passed its 25-year milestone, are approaching the period of maturity. The new year of 2014 is not only to speed them up but also to open new horizons for the mutually beneficial partnership in the spheres of economy, politics, culture and sport.
This year starts with renovation and good news: we have got a new Russian ambassador in Doha and we will get a new Qatari ambassador in Moscow soon, and we are looking forward to greeting our parliamentary delegation in Doha in the coming days. And the most important news today is the visit of His Highness Emir Sheikh Tamim for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi where his meeting with the President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin will take place.
Last year was first to see new positive dynamics in our bilateral relations. A strategic dialogue (as we usually call the regular consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers) was actually launched in Moscow last October. The negotiations between the two delegations headed by H.E. Mr. Mikhail Bogdanov and H.E. Mr. Ali Al-Hajri respectively were successful and very promising. The talks turned out to be highly-substantial and very frank whatever subjects were under discussion: the Middle East problem, the weapons of mass distruction in the region, Syria etc. Hopefully the second round of the strategic dialogue might be arranged this year in Doha.
We closely cooperate with our Qatari partners in the international arena on a wide range of issues: from the Middle East problem to disarmament, from counter-terrorism to human rights…
Our economic cooperation has a significant potential. I would like to outline the prospects for cooperation in the field of gas, investments and urban planning. It is worth mentioning that Russia and Qatar are world’s top exporters of gas. This fact among other things requires trust-based channels of communication in order to compare notes and exchange best practices.
Of strategic importance is our cooperation with Qatar within the framework of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF). The Moscow Summit of the GECF that picked up the baton from the Doha GECF Summit highlighted the prospects for multilateral and bilateral Russian-Qatari cooperation within this unique international body. And this is the great merit of both our countries that were the pioneers of the GECF.
The visit of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for cooperation with the GECF H.E. Mr. Victor Zubkov to Doha last February along with his participation in the opening ceremony of the first regional (Arabian Peninsula) office of the Russian company “Gazprom” became a landmark event. It is very important that the representative office of the world-renowned gas giant was opened in Qatar since it provides us with the additional cooperation opportunities including price coordination, interchangeable gas deliveries and etc. The work of the “Gazprom” representative office will contribute to the successful development of partnership with Qatar and will significantly intensify mutually beneficial cooperation with the countries of the region.
There is a considerable potential in the mutual investment cooperation. In March 2013 the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) purchased shares of one of the Russian “blue chips”, the state-owned VTB bank for 500 million USD. Further considerable Qatari investments (in the Russian high-tech projects) should ensue upon the completion of the ongoing negotiations between the QIA and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). In the meantime the QIA Chief Executive Officer Mr. Ahmed Mohammad Al Sayed was appointed as a member to the RDIF International Advisory Board.
Some qualitative developments are there in the sphere of the municipal facilities and urban planning cooperation that reflects the considerable potential of the cooperation between Qatar and the regions of the Russian Federation, Northern Capital of Russia – St. Petersburg among them. In April 2013 Vice Governor of St. Petersburg H.E. Mr. Oleg Markov was in Doha for a working visit and held negotiations with the Head of the Doha municipality Mr. Mohammad Al Sayed. And it is worth mentioning that the Russian delegation put on the table both projects that required the Qatari investments in St.Petersburg and those based on the Russian companies’ investments in the development of the Doha urban infrastructure. Our Qatari partners can benefit from St.Petersburg unique experience in the subway construction, firefighting (including the special technique for skyscrappers), water purification etc.
Yet another important mechanism to boost the bilateral economic relations, the Joint Inter - Governmental Commission for trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and the State of Qatar, is hopefully due to have its inaugural meeting this year.
The cultural cooperation between our countries is of special importance. We need to continue our experience of the “cultural weeks” exchange that had great success both in Moscow and in Doha in 2011, and we should add more Russian cities (St.Petersburg, Kazan etc.) to this program. We also hope to implement our plans to repeat the tour of the ballet team “The Russian Seasons” headed by Maestro Andris Liepa in Doha which held its magnificent performance at the QNCC in October 2012.
Under way also is the preparation of the cultural festivities “Qatar-Russia 2018”, which should have “on board” all the variety of the Russian masterpieces to be exhibited and the respective academic gatherings to be organized. It will further stimulate the museums cooperation that started in spring 2012 with the participation of the State museums of the Moscow Kremlin, the State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg, and the Russian National Library in the exhibition “Gifts of Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts” held under the auspices of the Museum of the Islamic Art of Doha.
The considerable passenger traffic of the Russian transit tourists traveling via Doha by Qatar Airways (12 flights per week from Moscow to Doha) has turned the Qatari capital into the gate to Asia for about 170 thousand of my compatriots a year.
The Russian community in Doha is also growing. It includes physicians, engineers, coaches, pilots, musicians of the Qatari Philharmonic Orchestra. Most of them are high-skilled professionals with great working experience.
There are indisputable prospects for the bilateral cooperation in the field of sport. One could think of a large variety of issues here. Football might be easily chosen as one of those. Suffice it to mention that our countries will be hosting consecutive World Cups: 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar. Isn’t it natural to establish close cooperation between the two national World Cup organizing committees?
Our two countries are now engaged in a wide-ranging political and business dialogue, paving the way for a full-fledged mutually beneficial partnership. And the future of the Russian-Qatari relations is clear and very promising.