Qatar’s emir said in Germany on Wednesday that his wealthy Gulf state does not back Islamic “terrorist organisations”, and Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had no reason to doubt him.
The leaders spoke in Berlin where the emir was visiting, some three weeks after a German minister angered Doha by linking it to financing of the rebel group Islamic State (IS).
“Qatar has never supported extremist groups,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani told a joint press conference, according to the German simultaneous translation.
“What is happening in Iraq and Syria is extremism, and those groupings are being partially funded from abroad, but Qatar has never and will never support terrorist organisations,” he said.
Germany said last month it regretted any offence caused in Doha after its Development Aid Minister Gerd Mueller, speaking about the IS, told public radio: “Who is financing these troops? Hint: Qatar.”
Merkel said that in her first-ever meeting with the 34-year-old emir, “I also asked all the questions that are being discussed here and have no reason to doubt the emir’s statements”.
She said that the joint press conference could serve to “correct misconceptions”, and stressed that both Doha and Berlin had joined the US-led alliance to combat IS.
Both leaders also touched on another contentious issue — the reported human and labour rights violations of migrant workers building 2022 World Cup facilities that have sparked an international outcry.
Merkel, whose national team won this year’s championship, said that “I made very clear that we hope that especially in a country that is among the rich countries of the world, the labour conditions are good for guest workers”.
The emir said that “there have been errors and problems, and we don’t say we are an ideal state that makes no mistakes”.
“But I think the good news is that we have tackled a lot and have initiated many changes in relation to the situation of foreign workers and we are working seriously on improving this situation”.
Energy-rich Qatar is a major investor in several large German companies, including automaker Volkswagen and construction company Hochtief, and a buyer of German military hardware.
Merkel stressed that “we’re happy about every Qatari investment” and said Germany could help especially in infrastructure and environmental technology and renewable energy for the post-fossil fuel age. SAPA