LONDON , Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Meetings this week with British and Qatari leaders come amid growing concern Qatar is funding al-Qaida and Islamic State militants.
The arrival in London of Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, for talks on economic matters, is seen as an opportunity for British Prime Minister David Cameron to take stronger action against Qatar's financiers of militant groups. The talks follow criticism from the United States that Qatar and Kuwait are funders of terrorism, which the two countries deny.
David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Dept. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, has referred to Qatar and Kuwait as "permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing." The two countries are part of the U.S.-led coalition providing airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq.
"I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is meeting with the Emir. As part of these discussions it is essential that the issue of financing Sunni tribes in Syria and Iraq is raised. I hope the Prime Minister will then give further details to Parliament. It remains unclear whether money is still flowing from Qatari nationals. There is clear evidence that Qatari nationals have been instrumental in the financing of Sunni terror groups and the Prime Minister should not avoid tackling this issue head on with the Emir," said Parliament member Stephen Barclay, who has called for transparency in the dealings between Britain and Qatar.
The visit comes as Britain has increased the sale of arms to Qatar. The United Kingdom has approved export licenses for 23 million pounds ($37 million) of weapons -- largely assault rifles and machine guns and parts -- to Qatar. Those opposed to Qatar's human rights record have been critical of the sales.
Andrew Smith, of the British group Campaign Against Arms Trade, said, "Qatar is an authoritarian state with a terrible human rights record. The U.K. government has actively promoted arms sales that have directly strengthened the regime, and is continuing to do so. When David Cameron meets with the Qatari leaders this week he should be talking about human rights and democracy."