In Conversation with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar

(speaking foreign language) – Your Excellencies, esteemed guests, respectable faculty and colleagues, on behalf of The Ambassador Society, we would like to welcome you all today to Georgetown University in Qatar. Our honorable guest today
has been locally dubbed (foreign language) translating to Knight of the Blockade. His Excellency’s consistent efforts at the very beginning of,
and throughout the blockade, showcased his determination
and sharing Qatar’s story. His Excellency was appointed
as Minister of Foreign Affairs in January of 2016. And later appointed as
Deputy Minister in November of 2017. In addition, His Excellency
has been Chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority since November of 2017, 2018. His Excellency is also a member of The Supreme Council for
Economic Affairs and Investments, the highest decision-making
body concerning energy, investments, and economy in Qatar. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Qatar Development Fund, a public development institution committed to improving the livelihood of communities around the world. Our moderator for the
day is Dr. Ahmad Dallal, the Dean of Georgetown
University since 2017. Prior to this position
at Georgetown University, he served as provost at the
American University of Beirut. And the Chair of the Department of
Arabic and Islamic Studies in Georgetown University
in Washington, D.C. Dean Dallad has written and lectured on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the Islamic
Disciplines of Learning in Medieval and Early
Modern Islamic Societies to Islamic Law. Please help me in welcoming Sheik Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in conversation with Dean Ahmad Dallal. – Welcome, Your Excellency, we are honored to have you with us today. We are very privileged
that you could make time to be with us. And I’m thankful to The Ambassador Society for the initiative that they’ve taken and the work that the
interpretation for this work. You’ve got sense of how much
respect that they have to you and how much they look up to you, and I’m sure all for
very, very good reason. Not many countries are tested
the way Qatar was tested two summers ago, when
the blockade was imposed. As we historians know, outcomes of events of this scale always
depend on the human beings who make the choices and
decisions in response to such historical crisis. Your Excellency, (foreign language), you were one of the core group of leaders who orchestrated Qatar’s
response to the blockade imposed by a coalition
of much larger powers. So, how did you help
respond to this assault on Qatar’s national sovereignty? – Thank you very much, Dr.
Ahmad for hosting me today, I’m really honored to be among you. We are very proud of
Georgetown Qatar Campus, which we see that until
now they have achieved around 440 graduates, 12
of them are working with us in MOFA and they were part of the team who worked against the blockade and on all the issues that Qatar is facing in the foreign policy. We are also very proud of the diversity that Qatar Campus has, which
we believe I think more than the main campus,
more than 50 nationalities who are studying here. Regarding the blockade and the
challenges that Qatar faced in 2017, May 2017, we first of all, the strategy that Qatar
adopt, facing this blockade wasn’t an individual effort or it wasn’t just decisions that’s been taken as a reaction to decision, it was a wise leadership led
by His Highness, The Emir, and all the team that worked
together in the government and outside the government,
along with the people who are either the citizens
or the people who are living in Qatar. We adopted a strategy
for the entire country to face and to confront this challenge. And this strategy mainly is
to protect, first of all, to protect our national
security and making sure that the people are not
affected in our country. Anyone who is living in
Qatar should not feel that there is any difference in his life, in his requirement for his living, but also from security perspective and from different angle as well. Then the other factor
was, the political factor which mainly intensified our
engagement with our partners, with our friends and
allies, and making sure that since this crisis has been, has started based on misinformation, on fabrication, on lies, that we are relying, the
facts and the reality and the truth for those partners, and making sure that our
collaborative efforts are not affected. And the third pillar was looking
at the humanitarian aspect and address the causes of our people. So, either it’s addressing
the issues legally in different international fora, or helping and assisting
them in overcoming the challenges that was
a result of this crisis. What we have seen during this crisis, without also the unity of the home front, we wouldn’t be able to
face all these challenges just because of this strategy. And we think that the people of Qatar, whoever was living here,
played a major and vital role in the face of this crisis. And also, the major
decisions that we have taken throughout this challenge since it started with the cyber attack on the country has contributed a lot in
managing the situation and not getting it out of control which everybody was sensing at
the beginning of the crisis that might lead to regional escalation which will be affecting the
entire regional security. – Thank you. The blockage had a significant
impact on the economy, politics and society of Qatar. So from your vantage
point, Your Excellency, how did the blockade
influence Qatar’s politics and society specifically? And what are Qatar’s
present-day priorities at the national and
international diplomatic fronts? – Well, the blockade has
not affected Qatar only, but if we would look at
it from a regional angle, it has been a turning point for the entire regional
geopolitics because if we will see since June 5th, we can just go through the
events which took place after the blockade, we
have seen that one of them was imprisoning of the
Prime Minister of Lebanon, the escalation in Yemen,
and there are escalations in Libya which are continuous. The situation in Syria
has been much worse, although people are imagining
this situation based on just the level of violence, but they don’t measure it
on the overall picture. So, we see that this blockade
has in that all the region and security efforts that were carried out by the GCC as the most stable
group in the Arab region. Also, it has an impact
on the national level, of course the first
weeks, the economic impact was a factor over here in
Doha, but we have adopted a strategy from the beginning to face any possible
challenges, which was among them the blockade and this strategy
thanks to God it worked, and Allah, in a way that
we had minimized the effect on the economy and the
economy compared now, the Qatar compared to the other countries, also the blockading states
has grew much better than others in the region. And it’s also about the eyes
of the Qatari businesses and the many economic
player to different markets which allowed us also to
diversify our supply base. On the humanitarian level, of
course there was big impact, and this is when you look at the families who’ve been separated
because of this blockade. The way our people has been mistreated in the blockading states,
had a major impact on the life of our people. And we wanted to make
sure that they are not, we minimize the effect on them by trying to address and to help support
them throughout the process to get back their lives. The priorities for Qatar currently in managing the situation, it’s not just that we’ve been responsive to the blockade, but now it’s a status which the country is living
and we need to direct our strategy in order
to ensure the well-being of our people on the national level, focusing on our human capital development and focusing on diversifying our economy, and international, the value
(mic clicking) has expanded its part, whether
bilaterally or multilaterally in trade and energy and investment. But, as a blockade actually has helped us in taking the front
factors in consideration. – Thank you, Your Excellency, I’m sorry about the microphone. – No problem. (laughing) – These are the perils
of modern technology. (laughing) To date, Qatar’s response to the blockade has been remarkably systematic. From the perspective of
any outside observer, and not just from an internal perspective, but its impact will go for
beyond the present, I think. Not just on life of Qatar,
which as you told us has been managed, and has been
managed fairly effectively, but also on the future regional
and international relations. In your view, what are some
of the long term consequences of the post-blockade alignments on the regional political landscape and on global energy policies? – Well I think the first consequence which we have to look
at after the blockade is the loss of trust,
which is very important in international relation. And since this confidence
between the countries, and confidence in the system
of the multilateralism whether it’s GCC or Arab League, and these systems that
Qatar has been involving since its establishment,
has been not effective to resolve or to address the
issue of the Qatari people. Then, the level of confidence in all these multilateral system has been very much decreased, and some of them has
been diminished, mostly. I think that one of the major
changes post the blockade is we have to take into
consideration a lot of calculations whenever we are talking about reforming our current multilateral system, whether its in the GCC
or in the Arab League, or enrolling in any other regional or international organization,
that it will address the need of the country when it’s needed. We have seen also, it’s
been more also polarizing for the region. After the blockade, it’s
been always considered which axis you are belonging to. Are you belong to the axis of Saud-UAE? Or you are belong to the axis of Qatar? And this axis of Qatar,
there are tries and attempts by the blockading states
to tie it to the axis of Qatar-Iran-Turkey,
which is not the reality, but this is a narrative that
they are trying to promote in order to support and
to justify the blockade that they have imposed on Qatar. But our concern is that this
axis things in our region and this polarization
in our region is going to increase and going to lead
to more geopolitical conflicts and more and more tensions
that will put the solution much far than what it is right now. I think this is one of the
things that needs a major review by the region. Qatar has proposed several
times that the entire region need to sit together and to agree on a new regional security principles, that respect each others’ sovereignty, that’s principles that’s been
built based on cooperation, based on common interests
for all the countries in our region. And to be more inclusive
and not exclusive. I think this is the only way
forward, post the blockade of Qatar, to start rebuild the t-os-t. There is an example of
Europe, which is right now not a good example to
give, but it started after World Wars. It started after the death
of million of people. And it started by trade. And they evolved to a
system that now they are more or less, they are having
their common foreign policy, common custom and trade policy, which is something that we don’t say that the region should replicate, but we should benefit from. We should look at as an
example that might lead to a peaceful coexistence together. The impact also on the
energy landscape is, I won’t say, for Qatar specifically, Qatar is a powerful player
in the energy supply, especially in the energy,
it’s controlling around 30% of the natural gas supply in the world, and it is significant, I think. And, what Qatar did in its
measures to face the blockade, we made sure that we
don’t miss any supply, any shipment for energy for any country that relying on us, including
one of the blockading states, which is UAE, because we
believe that taking measures, that because of a bit of political reason, we’ll hurt other reputation and the future that we don’t want to have because Qatar wants to remain to be a reliable energy supplier. But on the other hand, we
see that the other source of energy, especially when you are talking about the fossil fuel, has
been very much politicized, and after this polarization in the region, started to be used as a
political tool as well. So, this will have an impact on the future of the geopolitics of the region. We don’t see yet the major
impact on the energy market, but if there is any instability
it’s all correlated, so there is a shocks that will
happen to this energy market, if anything will happen to this region. – Thank you, Your Excellency. Your Excellency, I know that
you want to give our audience, and especially our students,
a chance to ask questions, but before I open the
floor, if you would allow me one more question? Allow me to move the conversation
from the national level to a more personal level. In addition to your
pivotal leadership role in the nation’s foreign ministry, and more recently as the Chair
of Qatar Development Fund, you are a role model for Qataris, and especially to our
students who graduate with a foreign service degree. So, tell us if you will, please, about your own career path, and what is your advice
to students aspiring to serve their country and society? – I’m proud to be a role model, but our role model is our Emir. – Of course. – First of all, and we
see how hard working he is in order to serve his
nation and his people and we have to, we are just
replicating what he is doing. So, all of us here, we are
servant of this country, and what we have been
doing is just a small part from the others. And I believe everybody
is going to contribute to this country, all the graduates of this School of Foreign
Service are going to contribute to this country in the future. The only advice I would give any of them, just love what you do. That’s what you need to do. You need to believe before you do anything that whatever you are going to make it will make a difference, whether it’s for your
country or for your society or for your own organization. And this difference will have an impact. Don’t see whatever you do is small, we believe it will contribute,
all these small things will aggregate together
and will contribute to a bigger change in this country and will contribute to a
bigger change in the region. I never believed that I will
be one day a foreign minister but I’ve been believing
in what I was doing since the beginning,
and I have achieved this and am very proud to
serve (foreign language) as a foreign minister to
serve under his leadership and to serve him in other sectors as well. And I believe all of you
will have this chance in the future. – [Thalat] (foreign language) Thank you for coming to Georgetown, my name is Thalat Salabi, I
am an alumni of Georgetown. I have a quick question about
the role of cyber security that you think is gonna happen
in international relations. In Qatar we saw one of
the biggest tools used in the beginning of the blockade was the hacking that happened in Qatar by the blockading countries, and recently we’ve been reading about Saudi Arabia hacking Jeff Bezos as retaliation for what’s been posted in the Washington Post for
the Jamal Khashoggi case. So, I’m just wondering in your opinion, in your expertise, where
do you think cyber security has a role in international relations in Qatar in the future? Thank you so much. – Well, I’m not an expert
in the cyber security, but if we would look
at the current crisis, it all started with a cyber attack and it’s showing how cyber
attacks and cyber warfare can effect country security
and can destabilize an entire region because
of just the absence of the framework in protecting
countries from cyber warfare. We have raised this issue in
different international fora that there is a missing
of international framework or international treaty
that making sure countries are protected from cyber
warfare and making sure that the people who are
conducting any wrongdoing in the cyber sphere will
be held accountable. His Highness, The Emir, in the last United Nation general assembly has mentioned this in his speech, that Qatar wants to work together with the other member
states in order to develop such a framework for
ensuring that the countries are protected from any cyber attacks, ensuring that anyone who is
going to conduct cyber attack, he will calculate the consequences. We have seen reports,
now recently countries who are hiring former
intelligence officers to hack the privacy of citizens, either here in Qatar or elsewhere. And this is a very very dangerous thing, very dangerous indication for, started to threaten our
lives, our private lives, that will be just exposed for the public and will be used just
for political reason. So, we didn’t spare any effort speaking in different international
fora that this cyber element of the new world need to be addressed as part of the international
relation principles between the front countries. – [Miriam] (foreign language) Thank you so much for joining us. My name’s Miriam Al-Thani,
and I just had a question regarding, actually links quite well with the previous question. You mention that the blockade had started with the fabrication of the media, and I had just wanted to know, because we saw the emergence
of (foreign language) on Twitter, the MOFA and even
your personal public account, had tweeted the most in English. What role has the media played
in getting public support or like, public knowledge
about this topic? – Well, Qatar has been subject
to orchestrated campaign, before the blockade and
before the cyber attack and we have noticed this
a few months earlier, and we started to investigate
and try to find out what’s behind it, and
unfortunately we found that there were, some
of the blockading states standing behind all this
disinformation campaign. And also, what we found
out that there are a lot of companies who are
using newer technology like what they call,
bat-weet-ports and others in order to spread all
these fabricated news. What we try to do from our
side is just to make sure that our message is out, that
the counter-narrative is there and we don’t defend ourself
by attacking the others. We defend ourself by making our case. If we want to attack
the blockading states, they are very vulnerable, we can, there are a lot of elements
that we can look at, and we just expose it. But, Qatar didn’t want to
go into the same direction they have adopted, they’ve been making up this information about Qatar
which was based on lies and fabrication, and we
made our case very clear for everybody, through the media, through direct communication,
reaching out to the people. Myself and my colleagues
from different agencies, we’ve been traveling
around the world explaining for all the parts of societies
over there in the West or in some of the Arab countries
that this is not the case, and the case has been all
fabricated against Qatar. And the media has played a
major role in helping also, in showing the truth, but this is only the responsible media, not the irresponsible
media which is trying just to spread out these lies. – [Male Student] (foreign language) Geo-Q-2022, Your
Excellency, I have to ask, what do you believe are
the factors necessary for a solution to the blockade, or if a solution can be reached? (laughing) – When, I cannot predict,
but if the solution will be reached, Qatar
has explained its position from the beginning, we are
open if the other countries are willing to engage
in a reasonable manner, in a discussion, and I
won’t call it a negotiation because they need to
put grievances forward, and they have to prove these grievances, Qatar remains ready. Qatar didn’t change its
position from the beginning of the blockade, and when
this going to happen? It will only happen if
there is a willingness from both parties, and we
have al-force appreciated the air force that Emir
of Kuwait has carried out since the start of this blockade, which also prevented the blockading states from taking further
aggressive actions against this country. But, unfortunately those, this
air force were not respected by the blockading states. We believe that the only
way forward would be through a negotiation table,
and this will only happen when those countries will start to realize that the blockade is not an
answer for what their concerns, whatever they are. – [Female Student] Mine
is an academic question, but my question is: when did you recognize
the emotional warmth from the ex-pat community
for His Highness, The Emir, yourself and the government, and has this emotional
warmth positively impacted on Qatar’s resolve to stay
steadfast post-blockade? – Of course, we have
sensed this from day one and I mention this in
the first question here, that without the support
of the home front, we wouldn’t be able to
face this challenge. And when I’m talking about the home front, we see that the people who
are living here are united, whether they are Qatari
or an ex-pat community, which we highly appreciate
that they are contributing to the development of their society and we believe that they
have a vital role also in the future of the
development of the country. And I think this has been sensed not by us only as a government, but
also by the people of Qatar. – [Female Student] (foreign language) Former Georgetown, Your Excellency, my question to you is as Chairman of QIA. It’s been reported that
Qatari entities want to increase their stake in Deutsche Bank through QIA buying in the open markets, however there’s still
uncertainty looming over the merger of Deutsche Bank
due to several reasons, a, they’re facing Qatari
resistance due to share dilution, if they were to raise capital, and b, we’re still unclear
of whether this merger would actually strengthen the bank. So my question is, if Qatar were to back this merger, would this translate
into more bilateral deals with Germany and other industries? – Well, I was never expecting
a question like this here. (laughing) (audience clapping) – And the gentleman after there is up. – Sorry, but the media has been pushing to get an answer from
any of us about this, and I never answer them,
and I cannot answer you. But I can answer you on your second part, which is more bilateral
relation and investments with Germany. Qatar has, we are considered one of the largest Arab investors in Germany. I think we are the largest over there. Our investments there
are performing very well whether it’s in financial
services, industry and different sectors, and also we have done
the conference last year, last September, about to invest in Germany and to encourage our private sectors to invest over there. And part of the commitment and the pledges that Qatar pledged for
to invest in Germany has been already executed
and we are looking forward in other deals in the pipeline. – [Hamad] Hi, my name’s
Hamad Al-Boho-washimin. I’m a senior here at Georgetown. So I have two questions, the first one is regarding a research that was done by the Center for International
and Regional Studies, here, they published a book called Environmental Politics of the Middle East, and in it they analyzed the
impact of milk production in Qatar, so after the
blockade, Qatar purchased something like 8000 cows and it’s led to sustainable milk production here, at least to self-sustain, but in the long run this is going to have tremendous
environmental impact on Qatar. And it’s causing a huge
strain on the water resources of the country. So, my question to you is what is the role of the foreign ministry in
mitigating this challenge? Over the long run, this
is going to have a lot of huge impact on the country. And the second question is regarding what you mentioned with
increasing economic interaction in the Arab world, and you
used the EU as an example, so the Arab Customs
Union was formed in 2001, and it has led to increased
economic and trade relations between Morocco, Egpyt, Tunisia,
Jordan and other countries, but Qatar never joined. So my question is, do you think, is Qatar interested in joining, and why did it not join it in the past? – Well, first of all, regarding
the production of the milk and dairy in Qatar. When Qatar decided not to
invest in this sector earlier because, first of all
because of the one markets which we used to believe in in the GCC, making sure that in each
country they will have their own competitive
edge for some products that the other countries
will be dependent on. What we have faced in this
challenge, in the blockade, we have lost trust and confidence, this is what we have just mentioned here. So, the country has to
invest on the basic needs of our people, and one of
the basic needs is the dairy, so that’s why we have
mobilized our efforts, the private sector here,
mobilized and set forth in order to make sure
that they can provide the sufficient supply for
the people who are living. We understand very well
the environmental concern that it might lead to,
but we cannot also avoid the fact that our people
need such a product and we need to see what kind of solution we can provide to avoid
being in front of crisis in the water. But different agencies,
each of the agencies are working, doing its
role, and making sure that new technologies are introduced and try to find solutions, and there in the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs is of course organizing and coordinating the international relationship between the concerned agencies
with their counterparts in other countries and making
sure that Qatar can benefit from an international
organization technical assistant in this field. Regarding, when I talked about new regional security arrangements, that needs to be based on cooperation. I don’t know what were the
reasons why Qatar didn’t join the Custom Union at the
beginning, the Arab Customs Union at the beginning, but I’m
sure that our predecessors has conducted a review
that, and they have seen that it might cost them more
than it’s benefiting them and that’s why they decided not to join. But, what we are talking
about is a wider region, a wider region and approach
that either it’s on the trade, on the customs, but it might
not start with the custom meaning, but might lead to
a custom meaning one day. And this is not necessarily
only the Arab region because the connectivity, and we have seen that it’s been approximately
from Qatar to Pakistan now, it’s equal to Qatar to Jordan, so Pakistan is also considered
part of this region. Iran now, they are facing
a lot of challenges because of the embargo and the sanctions, but Iran is a nation that will stay, and Qatar is another
country that will stay. One day we will have to, also
to open the trade with them and we want to make sure that there is a collaborative
approach between the GCC and the Iran in trade. Turkey is another big market
which is also very close by, Azerbaijan, the other
Central Asian countries, so we believe in the
wider region that’s not just include the Arab region, but we want to see the
Arab region go together to Central Asia and form
a new regional approach that’s based on cooperation. – [Female Student] Hi, my
name is (foreign language). So my question is, pre-blockade, Qatar had a very important
position as a mediator in regional conflicts, so
how do you think the blockade effected that position? – It didn’t effect, we
are still a mediator in the front conflicts, in
fact we’ve been just hosting Taliban and the US a few weeks ago, and the negotiations are ongoing. Qatar also has continued
its mediation effort when it comes to the
Palestinian reconciliation, Darfur Agreement, which is
called Doha Agreement here, also Qatar is still engaging with the different parties to join, who didn’t join the Darfur Agreement, to come into join the agreement. So, the priorities at the
beginning of the blockade has changed, and this is normal, because we prioritize some interests which are more related to
affecting our national security, but then after we managed
the situation over there, we came back as active as we were before. – [Female Student] (foreign language) A junior at Georgetown,
and I was wondering, Qatar has been using
and utilizing soft power for quite a long time,
in light of blockade, do you think Qatar has approached of power from a different angle,
and in what pon-ur? – Qatar is a small country. It is, as I mentioned, a
powerful energy supplier. It is an active investor
and a political player. So, it doesn’t have, and also it’s not living
in a peaceful neighborhood, let me put it this way, we are surrounded by big neighbors and we don’t know, some of them getting up in one
day and changing their minds and do whatever they
have done to us in 2017. So we need to invest in Qatar
relations and with others we need to invest in the soft
power, we need to invest. But, this investment in the soft power will be as Qatar as a force for good, as Qatar that contribute to the world and contribute to humanity. In fact, if we look at just
the development for Qatar, Qatar has been very consistent
in its development agenda, that keep the human
development at the core of our development agenda
when we are looking at different countries. Last year, Qatar
Development Fund has helped around 71 countries, it’s not necessarily that we are only Arabs, but
Arabs and other countries, not necessarily only Muslim countries, but also Muslim and other countries. The funds been dispersed
around 585 million dollars. 30% of these funds has gone to education because we focus on the future generation, we focus that we need
to build for the future of the stability, the peace
and the stability in the world. We need to provide those
young people with some tools and some weapons, but this
weapon will not be a gun, it will be a pen. And this is what we are
trying to fight with. Other thing, Qatar, I will
call Qatar soft power, it’s a friendly nation,
Qatar is a non-hostile to any other country. Either it’s trying to help
in putting down conflict or it’s trying to help in
providing a development. And also defending the
causes of our people and our nation and our region. I mean, if we are going to
talk about Syria, Libya, Palestine, all these
conflicts, Qatar has stood with the people, they didn’t
stand with governments who are oppressing their people. So this is maybe what made Qatar called, as a small country with
powerful soft power. – [Sara] Your Excellency,
thank you so much for taking the time to
speak with us today. My name is Sara-lin-thota, I’m a senior here at Georgetown, and my question pertains to the GCC as a regional organization, and whether the ties
between the member-states have been severed to a point of no return, and if that is the case, is there really a point in the GCC? – Well, the GCC will
remain, as a framework, as an important framework, and it’s not only Qatar, but Qatar and all the six-member states, believes in that this
framework is important for our regional cooperation,
for our coexistence as well. But, how beneficial is this
framework for the countries? This is the question, what did it make for the
people of our countries? There is lots of review
needs to be conducted, a sinf-a-review need to
be conducted for the GCC in order to be effective. Now we have seen that
there was a hostility from three countries toward one country, and we have seen that this
framework didn’t serve. We have seen that the GCC
itself has been paralyzed. It couldn’t take any role,
it couldn’t even put out a statement to de-escalate the situation. So, it means that the GCC as a framework is either hijacked by one
of the blockading states or it’s just ineffective, and
need to have major review. – We have to bring this
conversation to an end, thank you for your thoughtful input today, and also for taking the time
from your very busy schedule. I hope this will be the
beginning of a, well, it’s not the beginning, a continuation, a milestone, in a very
productive relationship, and you’ve seen the excitement
amongst our student body and Qatar Foundation Student Body, and I hope we’ll be able
to train our students to contribute meaningfully to the nation. Thank you so much for being with us. – Thank you very much for hosting me. (audience clapping) – Welcome. – Thank you very much. (audience applauding)

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