Lolwah R M Al-Khater is the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar. She visited Ethiopia this week and held bilateral discussions with different officials.
Before her appointment as the Spokesperson, Lolwah joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Minister Plenipotentiary. She also served as the Director of Planning and Quality at Qatar Tourism Authority and as a Research Project Manager at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.
She is also the Executive Director of Doha Forum.
Lolwah Al-khater has been working as an Independent Policy Analyst participating in conferences and multiple publications, and she is the co-editor of “Policy-making in a Transformative State: the case of Qatar”, a book published by Palgrave Macmillan. Al-Khater also wrote a book titled “Educational Outputs and Labor Market Needs: A study on Labor Market Issues and methods of Addressing Them” and was published through the General Secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Capital talked to her about the purpose of her visit and her country’s support to Ethiopia. Excerpts;
Capital: What is the purpose of you visit?
Lolwah Al-Khater: There are many areas of collaboration. I mean, there are also issues that Qatar and Ethiopia enjoy a good relationship on. There are a number of other meetings for example, there is one with the Ministry of Peace. Half of Ethiopia’s cabinet members are women. This is a role model for all to follow, so we have also discussed many key areas of potential collaboration. I was impressed in particular by the comprehensive approach the Ministry of Peace is taking towards the concept of moving from negative peace to positive peace or building inner peace within the society. We also a discussion with the Ministry of Trade about strengthening bilateral trade between the two countries as well as the African Union.
Capital: What is the business relationship between Qatar and Ethiopia?
Lolwah: I think the business has yet to realize its full potential, as you can imagine. I mean we have a sizable Ethiopian community that is helping our developmental project. This is especially true with the World Cup that is ahead of us. We are also in discussions with the Ethiopian government about supporting their upcoming general election.
Capital: The Ezden project, here in Addis was supposed to occur a few years ago. Tell us about the development on that?
Lolwah: I think, the investment portfolio is big as we expect, that was supposed to be a private investment, there were direct negotiations between the authorities here and that private company in Qatar which apparently never worked out. Yet there are negotiations happening now and those negotiations between the two governments are very hopeful and enthusiastic.
Capital: What is the status of the blockade from GCC countries?
Lolwah: Let me give you some background information to this question. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed illegal blockades on Qatar in an attempt to isolate Qatar from the rest of the world. As a result, Qatari citizens were expelled from those countries, including Mecca Medina. This, unfortunately, included students. Although we were able to negotiate with Egypt and convince them to allow some students to return. So the blockade has separated thousands of families and you know very well how intertwined the social fabric is so this is a serious issue. We depend on other nations for 90 percent of our food and medical supplies and Saudi is our only land border. So, when there are problems between us and Saudi and the United Arab Emirates, especially when we cannot access their ports, especially Juba Port, we have serious problems. Since this has completely stopped Qatar has been forced to diversify its supply chain and seek new markets. As a matter of fact, Africa has been very instrumental and very generous with Qatar for food security and for that we are very much thankful. In a very principled position, the Ethiopian Government understood that there was some pressure, whether by Saudi or the United Arab Emirates. The government of Ethiopia, worked to position itself principally as a mediator and as a neutral state and for this we are grateful. Right now, economically speaking, we are actually out performing, our neighboring countries, ironically enough so GDP growth is the highest in the GCC despite the blockade and all the actions against us. Qatar has increased exportation of energy, natural gas from 77 million tons per year to 100 million tons per year, constituting 30 percent of the energy market globally. Frankly speaking we are doing very well where it comes to GDP but the social fabric is still a serious problem. Thousands of families are separated even beyond that unfortunate case of Qataris who disappeared in Saudi, which Saudi made very difficult not as their claim of welcoming us for the visit Hajji Umra (Mecca). We know a couple of cases where a father and a son disappeared in Saudi, So that is another area of and of course undermining the global or regional security is a serious concern to us, you see the escalation between Saudi and the United Arab Emirates on one hand and as a small state in between these powers. Unfortunately, this blockade has hindered the multi- lateral work of the GCC, to give you one example many countries needed to negotiate with the GCC block. They negotiate with that of the European Union where the EU is concerned about the UK leaving this means they would re-negotiate likewise many countries want to remain and this is very problematic of course.
Capital: You are importing agricultural products from Africa, which countries?
Lolwah: We are importing from many countries, for example Sudan, in Ethiopia we are importing coffee, we are also importing corn and livestock. I can’t think of the specifics but there are other projects in Ethiopia. There is an institution called HASSAD that has helped us in food security. We have also looked to West Africa as well.
Capital: You are going to host the World Cup, what can you say about that?
Lolwah: Qatar invites all Ethiopians this is the first time it has been played in the Middle East. We have built an environmentally sustainable stadium in Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, the chairs can be detached so you can actually export them later and there are discussions with a number of countries in the region to export them so they can be re utilized. In Qatar, the longest distance from any Stadium would be a maximum of an hour so fans can watch two matches a day which is just unprecedented and its way more convenient for the players. November and December are beautiful in Qatar.
Capital: Is there anything you want to add?
Lolwah: I just want to say congratulations to Ethiopians for the wealth of achievements that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accomplished. He has won the noble peace prize and has brought back hope in the region; stability, prosperity.