BERLIN (Reuters) - Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani assured the West on Wednesday that it was not aiding Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, telling Germany that his own country’s security was jeopardised by the militants.
Last month, a German cabinet minister accused Qatar of financing Islamic State militants and the United States has expressed concern about funding from Arab states, although Qatar has now promised to support U.S.-led efforts to combat IS.
“What is happening in Iraq and Syria is extremism and such organisations are partly financed from abroad, but Qatar has never supported and will never support terrorist organisations,” the emir said, speaking alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel said Al Thani had assured her Qatar’s security was also at stake in the fight against the Islamic State and that she had “no reason not to believe what the emir said”.
Qatar has long faced criticism, including from neighbouring Gulf Arab states, of using its vast oil and gas wealth to back Islamists across the region. German Development Minister Gerd Mueller said last month that Qatar was the “keyword” when it comes to IS financing. Berlin then had to apologise to Doha.
Qatar moved this week to regulate charity donations to tackle funding concerns and last week was one of 10 Arab states which agreed to do more to stop the flow of funds and fighters to IS — a move which Merkel said was welcome.
German and Qatari business leaders also met in Berlin and Merkel said Europe’s largest economy appreciated that “Qatar is a strategic investor” which takes a long-term approach.
Qatar’s ex-prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor al-Thani has a stake in Deutsche Bank, Qatar has a 17 percent stake in Volkswagen and Qatar Airways has ordered A380 superjumbos from Franco-German Airbus.
Merkel said she hoped cooperation would grow in energy with the “first steps” already taken in liquefied natural gas.
The emir was also due to meet German executives and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat who has this year put the brakes on sales of weapons to the tiny Gulf state because of concerns over its support for Islamist militant groups.
This is holding up a Qatari order of MILAN anti-tank rockets from France needing German parts, whose shipment is blocked. It is a change from Merkel’s previous centre-right coalition which allowed the sale of 62 tanks to the country of 2 million people.
As chancellor of the reigning World Cup football champions, Merkel also brought up media reports of bad working conditions and fatal accidents among the thousands of foreign workers who are preparing the 2022 World Cup which Qatar will host.
“I made it very clear we want good conditions for guest workers in one of the world’s rich countries,” she said. “The emir told me things will change and they will react to the criticisms.”
Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Stephen Brown and Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Crispian Balmer