Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday
The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.
- Senior administration officials confirmed on Tuesday that the U.S. is in talks with countries and companies around the world — including Qatar, which has the world's third-largest reserves — to "mitigate against price shocks" by temporarily surging production or reallocating supplies.
- The discussions on Qatar providing liquefied natural gas are preliminary, but the proposal is expected to be advanced in the meeting between Biden and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, according to a source familiar with the details of the visit.
The big picture: The tiny Gulf kingdom has already played a major role in U.S. foreign policy over the past year, particularly since it agreed to become the "protecting power" for U.S. interests in Taliban-led Afghanistan in November.
- Qatar played a central role in U.S. negotiations with the Taliban prior to the fall of Kabul, and then helped facilitate the evacuation of thousands of Americans, Afghans and allies last August.
- With Afghanistan now facing a dire humanitarian crisis, Qatar is a key mediator as the Biden administration as considers how to engage with the Taliban government and whether to lift a freeze on $8 billion in Afghan assets that aid groups say is exacerbating the crisis.
What they're saying: "The visit provides an opportunity for the President and Amir to consult on a range of regional and global issues of mutual interest, including promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and broader Middle East region, ensuring the security and stability of global energy supplies, supporting the people of Afghanistan, and strengthening commercial and investment cooperation between our countries," a White House spokesperson told Axios in a statement.
- "The President will also thank Amir Tamim for Qatar’s extraordinary and ongoing effort to ensure the safe transit from Afghanistan of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghan partners."