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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Qatar leader meets with Jeremy Corbyn

Qatar’s ruler holds talks with left-wing opposition leader before meeting Theresa May for a working lunch

The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani speaks with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the start of their meeting at 10 Downing Street(AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani speaks with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the start of their meeting at 10 Downing Street(AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

The British leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, is under fire after a meeting with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, which came just weeks after taking high profile stands in refusing to meeting President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

The meeting took place on Monday as Mr Corbyn's parliamentary party held a meeting focused on the leadership's failure to adopt an international code on anti-antisemitism. Prominent MPs include Dame Margaret Hodge were quoted by Sky News condemning Mr Corbyn's failure to attend the meeting as is traditional at the last gathering before the summer break.

Having chosen to buck diplomatic protocol and cite policy differences with foreign leaders, there was no such objection lodged when the call came to meet Qatar’s leader. Mr Corbyn is a self-professed ally of Qatari-backed groups including Hamas and others that align broadly with Tehran.

The meeting took place during the Qatari leader’s two-day visit to London in which he is attempting shore up international support against the international boycott of Qatar.

Just as there was a curtain of silence over the emir’s talks in parliament and business leaders, few details of the discussions were forthcoming.

“The two sides exchanged views on the latest regional and international developments of mutual interest,” a statement from the Qatari News Agency said.

Mr Corby’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The National regarding whether or not he had challenged the Emir over accusations that the state provides support for extremists and a haven for known terror leaders. The party also made no comment on the substance of the discussions.

Earlier this year, Mr Corbyn refused to meet with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman

The Qatari leader then met with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday afternoon, as a row over alleged anti-Qatar protestors escalated.

A government statement revealed that just half of a high profile £5 billion investment pledge made in 2017 had so far been delivered by Doha. The prime minster stressed the need for Gulf unity in the wake of the decision by the Arab Quartet of countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain) to boycott Qatar until it abandoned its ties to Islamists and withdrew its support for extremist ideology.

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In the wake of press reports of new arms deals between Qatar and Russia, the statement placed rare emphasis on Downing Streets call for a strong line against Russian cross-border meddling. “They also discussed Russia, agreeing on the importance of continuing to approach Russia from a position of strength and unity,” it said. “They noted the particular importance of the international community continuing to work together to stand firm against malign activity, and to protect the global rules and norms.”

The visit triggered new allegations of dirty tricks directed by Qatar in support of its diplomatic position. A PR firm registered at an address previously used by Qatar-linked groups was reported to have placed an advert with a casting agency to pay protestors to demonstrate against the leader outside Downing Street. The Qatar linked address raised concerns the saga may be a “false flag” operation, carried out to accrue support for the leader.

Alan Mendoza, executive director of conservative think tank The Henry Jackson Society, was critical of the lack of response to the visit, tweeting “Hot on the heels of the massive Trump protests in London, the Emir of Qatar is arriving tomorrow.

“Why is there no indignation about his visit?”

But one Labour MP on the parliament’s Qatar friendship group rejected the claims of double standards by Mr Corbyn. “It is important that senior political figures in opposition meet with important foreign leaders, to become better informed and to discuss issues of mutual concern,” Mike Gapes told The National.

Mr Corbyn has previously refered to Hamas as “friends”, and in 2009 called for the group to be removed from Britain’s list of designated terrorist groups.

Qatar stands accused of backing Hamas, as well as other terror groups, and the visit came as Mr Corbyn’s own Labour party is caught in a long-running crisis regarding anti-Semitism.

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