Qatar does not advocate ‘forgive and forget’ for Russia, foreign minister says after colleague’s controversial remarks

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani speaks during a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Doha on March 28, 2022.

Mustafa Abumunes | Afp | Getty Images

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Tuesday appeared to correct a controversial statement his fellow minister made over the weekend concerning Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Qatar’s energy minister and head of the state gas company, said he was sure Russian gas would eventually flow back to Europe, as the Continent would “forgive and forget” Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re all blessed to have to be able to forget and to forgive. And I think things get mended with time … they learn from that situation and probably have a much bigger diversity [of energy intake],” al-Kaabi said on Saturday, during an energy forum in Abu Dhabi.

The comment sparked anger and came just as a Russian missile strike killed at least 40 civilians in a residential neighborhood of Ukraine’s Dnipro.

Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble if al-Kaabi’s comment was the official position of Qatar, Al Thani said:

“Well, it’s not actually. First of all, politically speaking, when we are talking about the situation and the war, Qatar has a very clear political stance on this: we don’t accept the invasion of another country. We don’t accept threatening by force or the use of force, we don’t accept civilians to be hurt. And we have been demonstrating this throughout our votes within the United Nations.”

He added, “Our message to the Russians, to the Ukrainian has been always … these kinds of differences and disagreements shouldn’t be resolved in a battlefield, they should be resolved through dialogue.”

Rescuers search for people trapped under the rubble of a high-rise residential building hit by a missile on Jan. 14, 2023, in Dnipro, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Europe has long been Russia’s largest customer for most energy commodities, particularly natural gas supplies. EU countries have dramatically reduced their imports of Russian energy supplies, slapping sanctions in response for Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The cut in imports has increased energy costs for Europe, sending leaders and oil and gas executives to seek out new sources of energy and alternative supplies.

Al Thani maintained it was up to Europe to decide its energy future.

“Actually it is the European decision,” he said. “At the end of the day, from our perspective and our policy, as state of Qatar, we never politicize the energy. We see that food, medicine, energy, those are items that need to be protected, because they are for the people, they are not for the government or for political reasons.”

He added that Europe’s woes aren’t solely the result of the war, but said the conflict had accelerated the Continent’s energy challenges.

“It has been for a very long time, policies … were not realistic,” the minister said, pointing to an overzealous energy transition that discounted the importance of fossil fuels while relying too highly on renewables.

Qatar has emerged as an important alternative source of natural gas for Europe. In late November, QatarEnergy and ConocoPhillips signed agreements to export 2 million tons of liquified natural gas yearly to Germany for at least 15 years, starting in 2026. 

Qatar maintains good relations with Russia. Its $300 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, owns roughly 19% of Russian oil giant Rosneft and plans to continue investing in the country.  

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