Qatar emir appoints trusted confidant as new prime minister

Qatar’s ruler appointed a trusted adviser as prime minister, replacing a veteran regime insider.
Wednesday 29/01/2020
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani.

DOHA – Qatar’s ruler appointed a trusted adviser as prime minister on Tuesday, the government said, replacing a veteran regime insider who had spearheaded diplomatic efforts to end a regional embargo on Doha.

New Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani previously headed up the office of gas-rich Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, according to the government website.

The new premier also takes over as interior minister from predecessor Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani, although other key posts remain unchanged, including the defence, finance and energy portfolios.

The emir issued an order “to appoint His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani as prime minister”, the emir’s office, the Emiri Diwan, said in a statement, adding it was effective immediately.

He was sworn in during a ceremony at the Diwan in downtown Doha early on Tuesday and security forces blocked traffic to clear roads for VIP convoys moving around the city.

King’s College London assistant professor and regional expert Andreas Krieg described the new head of government as “one of the most trusted advisors and confidants of the emir”.

“Abdullah bin Nasser has signalled for a while already that he wanted to resign. And I think they found a very suitable successor,” he told AFP. 

Sheikh Tamim’s brother and head of Qatar’s Olympic Committee, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, tweeted his “sincere thanks” to Sheikh Abdullah, praising him for “his work for the homeland”.

Sheikh Abdullah tweeted his hope that he “succeeded in bearing responsibility and honesty for the period of my service to the homeland and the emir”.

He had served as prime minister since 2013 and led Qatar’s delegation to December’s Gulf Cooperation Council regional bloc summit in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia along with its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic, trade, and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017.

The four nations accused Doha of backing radical Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and seeking closer ties with Saudi arch-rival Tehran — allegations Qatar vehemently denies.

Hopes were high ahead of the summit that Sheikh Abdullah could secure a breakthrough and negotiate the end of what Qatar decries as a “blockade”, but the stalemate has persisted.

The new premier previously worked in the gas industry and was educated in the United States before going on to work for Sheikh Tamim when he was the crown prince, according to his official biography.

Sheikh Tamim wields absolute power in Qatar, although he announced plans in November for the Gulf state’s consultative council to be partly elected by the time the nation hosts the World Cup in 2022.

The new prime minister is aged around 51. 

“This is a new generation taking the reins,” Majed al-Ansari, an analyst and professor of political sociology at Qatar University, told Reuters, referring to the relative youth of some of the officials working with Sheikh Tamim, who is in his late 30s.

Ansari added that the move does not seem to signal any major shift in Qatar’s direction.

“The new prime minister is very close to his highness the emir, part of his inner circle,” Ansari said.

Sheikh Abdullah, thought to be around 60 years old, on Twitter thanked the emir for his guidance during his time as prime minister.

The emir also appointed a new commander of the internal security forces, Abdulaziz bin Faisal bin Muhammad Al Thani, state news agency QNA said.

(AW and agencies)