Warm embrace for Qatar's new emir

June 25, 2013 at 10:17 AM

LONDON, June 25 (UPI) -- The British government said Tuesday it looks forward to building a stronger working relationship with the new emir of Qatar, Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani.

Qatari leader Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced Tuesday he was handing over the reins of power to his 33-year-old son after 18 years in power. The 61-year-old emir was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying he was not in power for power's sake, noting it was time for "a new chapter" in Qatar.

Tamin serves as the deputy commander of the Qatari armed forces. The government is considered a close Western ally in the region. In February, the Qatari government handed control of its Syrian embassy to opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday he was thankful for the close partnership the British government had with Qatar under the previous leadership.

"Our relationship is stronger than ever and the British government looks forward to enhancing it further under the leadership of His Highness Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani," he said in a statement.

Salman Shaikh, director of the Doha Center at The Brookings Institution, said questions on Qatar's foreign policy will be answered once a new government is up and running.

He wrote Monday the kingdom is likely to remain a steadfast Western ally, bridging the gap between Taliban liaison efforts in Afghanistan and regional political transitions.

"Some in Doha are already speculating, and perhaps hoping, that there may be a return to a more tranquil and not necessarily confrontational foreign policy, which would further enhance Qatar's relations in the region," he said.

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