IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden meets with Qatari emir amid European energy concerns

The E.U. depends on Russia for around 40 percent of its gas supplies via pipelines, including some that run through Ukraine.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden met Monday with the emir of Qatar, a potentially crucial player in helping Europe avoid an energy crisis should tensions between Russia and Europe escalate over Moscow's aggression toward Ukraine.

In remarks to reporters ahead of the White House meeting, Biden said he and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani wanted to discuss the "security of the Gulf and the broader Middle East, ensuring the stability of global energy supplies, continuing our work together to support the people of Afghanistan, the strengthening, commercial and investment cooperation between our two" countries.

Biden did not specify the role Qatar might play in a European conflict, but said the U.S. continues to urge diplomacy as Russia sends more troops to its borders with Ukraine.

"We are ready no matter what happens," he added.

The European Union depends on Russia for around 40 percent of its gas supplies via pipelines, including those that run through Ukraine. European leaders have said they are preparing for a scenario in which Russia cuts off that supply if the U.S. and Europe put heavy sanctions on Russia over its aggression toward Ukraine.

Russia has massed some 120,000 troops near the border of Ukraine and demanded that the Western allies pull back troops and weapons from Eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from joining NATO. Russia denies any plan to invade Ukraine.

Biden announced Monday that he will be notifying Congress that he plans to designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, to reflect the importance of the U.S.-Qatar relationship. The president called it a “long overdue” step.

"This past year, the partnership with Qatar was has been central to many of our most vital interests, relocating tens of thousands of Afghans, maintaining stability in Gaza and for providing life saving assistance to the Palestinians, keeping pressure on ISIS and deterring threats across the Middle East. And a lot more," Biden said.

Monday's visit by the emir is the first by a Gulf leader during the Biden administration, the White House said. Qatar has become an increasingly important ally to the United States, especially in the last year, after it served as the first and primary transit destination for over 60,000 evacuees from Afghanistan, and acted as a key mediator with the Taliban government since the withdrawal, an administration official said.

The White House meeting included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the emir is scheduled to meet separately with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and members of Congress, the administration official said.