DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — 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 defense, 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.”
“This is part of a wider trend in Qatar to become more meritocratic, getting the right people for the job. You need someone as head of the cabinet who can manage the other ministers and their egos,” he told AFP.
“Abdullah bin Nasser has signaled for a while already that he wanted to resign. And I think they found a very suitable successor.”
Hopes for breakthrough
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.