St. John’s, Antigua — The government of Qatar will hold a conference on small island developing states (SIDS) in Antigua in January designed to “initiate stronger bilateral ties between the countries of the Gulf States and the Caribbean”, as a result of an initiative by Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
The decision of the government of Qatar to hold the conference arises from discussions between Browne, and the prime minister of Qatar, Abdulah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, in Doha last week.
In a letter dated October 16 to Browne, the Qatari government stated that, as a result of the meeting between the two prime ministers, there is “a new mandate for Qatar to focus on Caribbean development and expansion of Qatar social and economic ties to the region”.
The letter also noted that, during his visit with the Qatari leader, Browne “expressed the importance of inviting and hosting other Caribbean heads of government”. In pursuit of this suggestion, the Qatari prime minister indicated that he would invite Caribbean leaders, to include the prime ministers of Dominica, Haiti, St Lucia, St Kitts-Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago, for bilateral and regional discussions “to understand more about the challenges and opportunities for increased cooperation and social development”.
Commenting on the Qatari government’s positive response to his visit, Browne said: “While my visit to Qatar was a bilateral one, I recognise that the Caribbean region can benefit from strengthened relations with the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That is why I urged the Qatari prime minister to involve other Caribbean leaders in a broad discussion on deepening relations in a development context. I am very pleased that he has confirmed he will do so.”
The Antigua and Barbuda prime minister said that he is also “delighted that the Qatari government has decided to hold the conference in Antigua in January to build-up economic ties between the Caribbean and the states of the Gulf Council”.
“This will provide an opportunity for our region to establish firm relations with some of the fastest growing economies in the world,” he said, noting that “The Gulf States’ regional funds amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. The potential for investment, in a mutually beneficial manner in the Caribbean, is boundless, and my government will certainly work to take advantage of it.”
The prime minister added, “I have opened the door, not only for Antigua and Barbuda, but for the Caribbean as a whole.”