France-Qatar relations put to the test by Middle East crisis 

Qatar and France have maintained relations since the country’s declaration of
independence in 1971 and the opening of joint diplomatic representations the
following year. Bilateral relations developed in the early 1990s in the fields of security
and hydrocarbons. With a presence in Qatar since 1936, Total Energies (formerly
Total) very quickly became one of the main partners of Qatar Energies (formerly
Qatar Petroleum) in extracting and developing the country’s hydrocarbon resources.
Qatar’s desire to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on gas has
enabled us to broaden the scope of our cooperation in a number of sectors, including
the military and security sector (combating terrorism and radicalisation), the

economic and investment sector (infrastructure with the Doha metro; aeronautics),
culture (with Qatar Museums), education and higher education (HEC Paris campus in
Doha). Finally, France and Qatar want to strengthen their cooperation on sport and
major global issues (climate, global health, development and humanitarian aid, smart
and sustainable cities).
According to the Quai d’Orsay, diplomatic relations are excellent and well-founded:
consultations between the authorities, and at the highest level, are regular. The
Strategic Dialogue, set up in 2019, provides operational monitoring of the main
projects structuring the bilateral relationship. The first session, co-chaired by the
foreign affairs ministers, was held in Doha on 28 March 2022, followed by a second
session in Doha on 8 June 2023.
Qatar and France welcomed the holding of the second annual strategic dialogue and
reviewed the significant progress made since the first strategic dialogue was held in
March 2022. The two countries underlined the strength of their bilateral relationship
and reaffirmed their determination to develop its full potential, deepening cooperation
in all areas of common interest and identifying concrete joint projects to further
deepen their strategic cooperation.
On 27 February 2024, President Macron received the Emir of Qatar, Tamim ben
Hamad Al-Thani, at the Élysée Palace as he began a two-day state visit to France,
focusing on the release of the hostages in Gaza and the relaunch of the process for
the creation of a Palestinian state, as well as on strengthening bilateral relations, with
an agreement for Qatari investment of €10 billion in the French economy by 2030.
Following the Rafale and helicopter purchases, there is now talk of future Franco-
Qatari partnerships in the energy transition, semi-conductors, aerospace, artificial
intelligence, digital technology, health and culture. The French President knows how
and why this small Gulf monarchy has made itself indispensable on the international
stage. Testifying to their solid partnership, this annual dialogue reviewed bilateral
relations, regional and international issues, development and humanitarian aid,
defence and security, trade, investment, the economy, education, culture and
scientific research, climate change, energy, the environment and sports.

Political cooperation

Qatar and France expressed their commitment to consolidating their strategic
partnership through an ongoing and in-depth dialogue, based on trust, on all key
issues to address global challenges. The ministers stressed the importance of
deepening their dialogue, diplomacy and political coordination on crises affecting
regional and international security, and promoting peace, security and prosperity.

Prime Minister Sheikh Al Thani and Minister Colonna discussed recent developments
in Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan and Chad, and explored ways of
further deepening their coordination in these regions.
Qatar is very active in conflict resolution in the region, as can be seen from its role in
the Syrian, Lebanese, Libyan and Yemeni crises, and finally in the Palestinian crisis.
With regard to the Middle East peace process, they reiterated their commitment to
achieving a two-State solution based on all the relevant UN resolutions, founded on
the 1967 lines and with Jerusalem as the capital shared by the two States.
They underlined the urgency of putting an end to all unilateral actions, in particular
concerning the expansion of settlements and the importance of safeguarding the
historic status quo of all holy places in Jerusalem. They expressed their concern
about the humanitarian, political, economic and security situation in the Gaza Strip,
and reaffirmed the indispensable role of UNRWA and the need to support it.

why France is counting on Qatar

The detention of nine French citizens by Hamas highlights the importance of Qatar’s
role as mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With its multilateral diplomatic
policy, the emirate is positioning itself as a key negotiator while navigating the
complex waters of international alliances.
In the delicate situation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Qatar is emerging
as a key player in the negotiations for the release of the hostages, particularly the
nine French hostages, who are now the number one priority of the French authorities.
But to intercede with Hamas, France can count on Qatar. Recently interviewed by
TF1, Mohammed Al Khulaifi, Qatar’s chief negotiator, promised French viewers that
talks to free the Franco-Israelis were well under way and that they would continue
‘down to the last hostage’.
In previous weeks, Doha had already facilitated the release of four hostages held by
Hamas, two American citizens and two Israelis, offering a glimmer of hope for the
French nationals still being held. The responsiveness of the French authorities, who
contacted the Qatari negotiator as soon as the conflict broke out, is indicative of the
tension running through the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry.
A ‘Doha dependency’?
While in France, President Macron’s policy of ‘at the same time’ is increasingly
criticised in relation to the conflict in Palestine – some criticising his support for Israel,
others criticising his absence from the march against anti-Semitism organised in
Paris – the release of the hostages is becoming a political priority for the Élysée

And the French head of state is counting on the close interpersonal relations he has
forged with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamed Al-Thani since he came to
power in France in 2017 to secure the release of the hostages, which would bolster
his flagging political credentials.
However, Qatar’s position in this conflict remains complex and difficult to understand
for some observers. The Emirate is an ally of the United States, which supports
Israel, and is home to a major US Army base, the largest in the Middle East. This
alliance is all the more highlighted by the war in Gaza. But at the same time, Qatar is
also home to the head of Hamas’s political bureau, and for years it has been
providing Gaza with humanitarian aid: food, medicines, education and the
reconstruction of vital infrastructure, all under the aegis of the United Nations.
Qatar’s status as a mediator, in its role as a geopolitical tightrope walker, is proving to
be an indispensable negotiating channel for France. Doha is in the process of
succeeding in its gamble by obtaining the release of French and international
citizens, and the small emirate will change dimension… Especially in France.