Doha, Qatar: The bilateral ties between Qatar and Germany remain resilient, trustworthy, and intense on a high level with over five decades of fruitful relations.

In an exclusive interview with The Peninsula, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the State of Qatar H E Lothar Freischlader remarked on the unremitting robust cooperation between the two nations in political, security, cultural and economic realms in addition to the humanitarian aid facing the ongoing situation in Gaza.

During the visit of Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Berlin in May 2022, the two countries agreed on having a Qatari-German energy partnership to enhance cooperation in the fields of energy. This was followed by visits of the German Federal Chancellor, H E Olaf Scholz in September 2022 and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock in May 2023, which included the launch of an annual strategic dialogue between Qatar and Germany. Within this context, QatarEnergy signed a 15-year deal with ConocoPhillips to provide LNG supply to Germany – among other countries – starting in 2026.

The most recent visits on the highest level occurred in October 2023, when Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani visited Berlin again and when German Federal President, H E Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with H H the Amir in November 2023 in Doha.

Ambassador Freischlader stated that these visits and partnerships further deepen the ties, especially in light of the strong and trustful relationship.

The partnerships have intensified over the years leading to increased collaboration and investments with about $25bn (QR91.03bn) of Qatari investments in Germany, mainly in Volkswagen, Siemens, and Deutsche Bank in addition to the energy sector.

Qatar is home to nearly 120 German companies, mostly in the fields of engineering, energy, automotive, logistics, and technology. The Ambassador stated that these established presences in Qatar contribute to its further economic growth and diversification efforts. He said: “These companies not only provide jobs but also bring advanced technology, expertise and innovation solutions to Qatar while fostering knowledge transfer as well.”

During his visit to the recently held Web Summit in Qatar, the Ambassador witnessed high standards of cooperation in the field of technology “as Qatar is very open-minded towards new technologies and solutions in all sectors. This openness is highly appreciated especially by German companies, making it attractive for them to cooperate with Qatar”. A visible example is the MoU that was signed during the Web Summit between the Qatar Free Zone Authority and the Berlin-based “Center for Tangible AI and Digitalization” (ZEKI).

In line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, Ambassador Freischlader said that German expertise presents many possibilities and avenues for collaboration in investments with a wide spectrum of services and products that are relevant to Qatar’s priorities such as food security, the health sector, and logistics as well as transportation.

He also lauded the interest of Qatari students to pursue the German language across schools and universities in the country, which offers access to universities or the labour market in Germany or even business opportunities later. Germany stands as the 5th biggest trading partner in Qatar and local investors are recognising the long-term potential of partnering with German companies and seeking opportunities for joint ventures, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships.

Praising The Peninsula’s coverage of the opening of the German Association of small and medium-sized businesses (BVMW) office in Doha, the Ambassador said: “Together with the German Industry and Commerce Office (AHK), the German Business Council Qatar (GBCQ) and the BVMW we are working towards the same goal: to further deepen German-Qatari business relations. We believe that they have great potential to grow further.”

He also highlighted the growing tourism industry in Germany stating that Qatar Airways’ recent decision to add Hamburg as a new destination in Germany to their direct flight network will further contribute to Qatari’s increased interest in spending their vacations in Germany. He added that the presence of VisitQatar and Qatar Airways at the ITB 2024 in Berlin, the world’s biggest trade show for tourism, will certainly attract even more German tourists to Qatar. German tourists are the third biggest group visiting Qatar.

Furthermore, Ambassador Freischlader shed light on the dire situation in Gaza, emphasising the most urgent need for better access to humanitarian assistance. Ambassador expressed deep concern, stating “The suffering of the people in Gaza is indescribable. It is pure horror that civilians have to fight for their lives just to secure air and that babies and children die as a result of dehydration and malnourishment. A humanitarian catastrophe is already happening in Gaza and therefore we are most concerned about plans for a large-scale offensive in Rafah, where 1.3 million people seeking refuge, thousands of them too weak to leave.”

The Ambassador added that the quantity of trucks allowed to cross the border, transporting life-saving food, medicine, and other aid supplies to Gaza has been absolutely inadequate. Calling the situation unacceptable, the Ambassador said, “The Israeli Government and Israeli army must immediately enable secure and unhindered access of and to humanitarian assistance in accordance with the orders of the International Court of Justice.”

Germany’s commitment to alleviate the suffering in Gaza was also emphasised, with the Ambassador highlighting an increase in humanitarian assistance by another €20m. “The overall German assistance for the Palestinian territories so far amounts to a total of around €240m including €165m of new funding since 7 October 2023” he said.

Ambassador Freischlader also underlined three pillars of German engagement: intensive diplomacy, extensive humanitarian assistance via international organisations like the United Nations, and bilateral support in the region.

Regarding UNWRA he clarified that Germany did not cut already approved funding. “Germany, in coordination with other donor countries, is monitoring the situation very closely. Temporarily it will not approve any new funding for UNRWA until the end of the investigation by the UNSG regarding serious allegations made against UNRWA staff. But our help continues of course”, he added. He underlined Germany’s collaboration with international organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the Red Cross, and partner countries like Egypt and Jordan.

“In February, for instance, vital medicines were delivered to Jordan and subsequently used in Jordanian field hospitals in Gaza. Through the various organisations to which we provide funding, Germany remains the largest humanitarian donor to the Palestinian territories. And together with our partners, especially Jordan, we are now participating in the airdrops of humanitarian aid, too, and are also supporting a maritime humanitarian corridor” he said, acknowledging that help entering Gaza by land is a priority. This was also stressed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in his meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II on March 17, 2024 in Jordan, highlighting the danger of a potential Israeli attack in Rafah.

Commenting on the objectives of H E Deike Potzel, Germany’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Issues in the Near and Middle East, who repeatedly visited Qatar, the Ambassador shed light on her efforts: “Her major aim is to find possibilities for a better coordination of aid and advocating for increased access to Gaza”, adding further: “The most pressing problem at the moment is access, and we put a lot of pressure towards Israel to let more humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip.”

The Ambassador also expressed gratitude towards Qatar, Egypt, and the United States for their tireless mediation efforts, particularly in securing agreements related to a humanitarian pause and the release of the hostages. He commended Qatar’s relentless efforts and extensive channels of communication, acknowledging them as extremely valuable assets in resolving crises, highlighting that Germany would also like to intensify its collaboration with the excellent Qatari relief organizations working on the ground.

Reiterating his hope for immediate access to Gaza to alleviate the inhumane suffering and the release of the hostages, the German Ambassador concluded: “I pray each day that a humanitarian pause begins rather today than tomorrow.”

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