Relations between Malta and Qatar are set to strengthen even further following the decision announced yesterday by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to open a Maltese embassy in Doha and the signing of a number of cooperation agreements as part of a one-day visit of the Qatari Amir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani. The agreements range from closer ties in the fields of science, research and culture to the economic sector.
During his short stay, which barely lasted a few hours from early to late afternoon, the Qatari Amir had talks with President George Abela at the Presidential Palace and later on in the afternoon with the Prime Minister at the Auberge de Castille.
Commenting to the press at the end of his meeting with the Amir of Qatar, the Prime Minister described these decisions as further proof of the willingness from both sides to collaborate even further in various fields. He described the meetings as productive and pointed out that relations with this Gulf state were strengthened also due to close collaboration during the Libya crisis.
As expected, energy was one of the items on the agenda during talks with this oil-rich country. Dr Gonzi announced that government is exploring the possibility to convert the Delimara power station to gas rather than oil.
Last month, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech had high-level talks in Qatar with the Qatari Minister of Energy and Industry Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada, who is also the Chairman and Managing Director of Qatar Petroleum. Though no official statement from the Government was made regarding this visit, news of these talks was reported in The Gulf Times. It is believed that an advantageous deal worth millions of Euros to buy oil and gas at advantageous prices from this Gulf state was on the agenda of last month’s meeting, but Government officials remained tight lipped about this visit.
Without going into much detail the Prime Minister said that the Qatari government is willing to invest in Malta but at the same time sounded cautious.
Meanwhile the uncharacteristic weather which greeted the Qatari Emir forced the ceremonial welcome which was meant to have taken place on St George's Square in Valletta to be cancelled because of rain. Instead the Emir was formally greeted by the Maltese head of state in the Palace courtyard in the presence of the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries. The Emir was then hosted to lunch by the President.
The Emir’s visit to Malta was also commemorated with the planting of a tree at San Anton Palace gardens. During his brief stay he was accompanied by among others Sheikha Moza Bin Nasser, Dr Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Sheikh Jassem Bin Abdulaziz Bin jassem Ak-Thanni, Minister of Business and Trade.
The two countries established closer ties since 2009, when in August that year President George Abela accompanied by the Foreign Minister Tonio Borg led a business delegation to Qatar, during which a double taxation agreement and a cooperation agreement in the air services were signed. The major breakthrough of this visit was however the agreement signed between Qatar Airlines and Lufthansa Technik Malta.
Further cooperation was sought in April 2010, during a brief visit by the Prime Minister who led a business delegation to several Gulf States. This time an agreement regarding visa extension for diplomatic passport holders, a memorandum of understanding in the health sector and a cooperation agreement in culture were signed.
The Malta Independent online
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