WASHINGTON, April 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday thanked the emir of Qatar for the "excellent relationship" between the two countries with respect to security and trade.
"Qatar has been a center of innovation," Obama said after their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office. "We've seen enormous progress within the country on everything ranging from education to health care. And I think His Highness has shown extraordinary leadership over the last many years in helping to guide this country.
"Obviously, Qatar is also an important country in the region, and has an influence that extends beyond its relatively small population. And so we had an opportunity to discuss a whole range of issues that directly relate to U.S. interests and U.S. security, but, more importantly, the security of the entire world."
Obama said he spoke with the emir about ending the violence in Syria and removing President Bashar Assad, as well as encouraging democracy in Egypt.
"We had an opportunity to discuss the situation with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we both agree that peace is in the interest of everyone -- a secure Israel side-by-side with a sovereign Palestinian state. And we exchanged ideas about how we can advance those negotiations, and I've shared the importance of providing support to President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority so that they can be in position to have fruitful negotiations with the Israelis that can bring about, in a timely fashion, a two-state solution," Obama said.
"I was delighted to have this very positive meeting with the president today," Emir Hamad said. "We discussed several issues of mutual concern to both our countries, especially the situation in Syria. We also addressed issues concerning our mutual military relationship, which is good, as you know, and also exchanges in education. As you know, there are several universities, American universities that opened branches in Qatar.
"We also discussed our economic relationship. There are joint oil and gas projects between the two countries. We also talked about the serious changes that are affecting the Middle East, especially countries like Egypt, which we consider to be a very important country, and also important for peace with Israel.
"And for Qatar, it's very important for us to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and to see also a good relationship between Arab countries and Israel once a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement is reached," he said.