Emmanuel Macron visits Qatar amid regional boycott

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Qatar for a one-day trip to the small Gulf country as it faces a boycott by some of its Arab neighbours.

Mr Macron travelled to the al Udeid air base, home to some 10,000 American troops and the forward headquarters of the US military’s central command.

France also has a contingent of soldiers at the base, which is crucial to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and to the war in Afghanistan.

Mr Macron smiled and shook hands with the French and American soldiers who greeted him at the base before walking into a meeting with the base’s top commanders.

Speaking to coalition soldiers, he said the next few months will determine the outcome of the war against the IS group in Iraq in Syria.

"This military win does not signify the end of the operations and the end of our battle because first we need to stabilise and win peace in Iraq and Syria," he told troops.

"Next spring is decisive in the situation in Iraq."

Mr Macron also stressed in his remarks at the air base that France wants to avoid partition in Syria and "avoid the domination of certain international elements whose interests contradict peace".

The French president later will hold talks with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Mr Macron is travelling with his foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defence minister helped negotiate a multi-billion dollar deal with Qatar to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets.

Qatar may announce during Mr Macron’s visit that it will purchase up to 12 more of the French-made Dassault Rafale jets.

Mr Macron’s visit comes just days after a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Kuwait failed to bring the stand-off any closer to a resolution in the dispute engulfing Qatar.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and has too-close relations with Iran.

Qatar has long denied supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.


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