The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is travelling to Qatar to attend the World Cup and launch a strategic dialogue with Qatari officials on Monday.
Blinken is the first official of the Biden administration to visit the World Cup. The American diplomats presence will likely create controversy among progressive Democrats and section of Republicans as Qatar faces criticism for its treatment of migrant workers and its anti-LGBTIA+ laws.
Departing for Doha, Qatar to launch the fifth annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue and cheer on @USMNT as they take on Wales at the first @FIFAWorldCup in the Middle East. The United States is committed to our long-standing friendship and strong partnership with Qatar. pic.twitter.com/LGOxUXJVK1— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) November 21, 2022
Blinken will attend the US versus Wales game. “The Secretary will be cheering on the US Men’s National Team in its first game of the World Cup, as the United States takes on Wales,” state department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Blinken departed for Doha in the early hours of Monday. Blinken will launch the US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue where he will also recognize Qatar’s “important contribution to international sports diplomacy as it hosts the World Cup.”
During his visit to Qatar Blinken will meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the country’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister and other senior officials.
Ned Price said talks will focus on global health, humanitarian assistance, international development, labour and human rights, security cooperation, climate change, and trade and investment.
The visit is also important because Qatar is the US’ strategic partner as it hosts a large number of American troops at the Al-Udeid Air Base. The Al-Udeid Air Base is the headquarters of the US Central Command and US Air Force Central Command.
The US prioritises its ties with Qatar because the Gulf nation played a major role in negotiating the terms and conditions of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and also helped transport tens of thousands of Afghans and other nationals evacuated from Afghanistan.
However, despite these Qatar faces criticism on how it has treated its migrant workers who helped construct the stadiums. The emirate implemented reforms but experts say that these reforms are too little and too late and fail to address the major gaps and the serious human abuse allegations.
The Human Rights Watch is joining migrant workers and their families to demand compensation from FIFA and Qatari authorities and also to seek explanation regarding the unexplained deaths of migrant workers.
Football fans who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community also fear their safety is at risk as they attend the World Cup.
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