German rights envoy postpones Qatar trip amid World Cup spat

With kick off less than a month away, Qatar has faced increasing scrutiny in recent weeks.

Germany’s human rights envoy Luise Amtsberg has postponed an official visit to Qatar that was scheduled to take place this week, following criticism from Berlin’s interior minister over the Gulf state’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Associated Press (AP) reported on Sunday that Amsberg feared the conversations with officials in Qatar would be “difficult”. This came after the Gulf state summoned Germany’s envoy to Doha Dr. Claudius Fischbach on Friday. 

“The developments this weekend have made clear to me how difficult it is in the current situation ahead of the World Cup to have the open and also critical conversation I planned with the government of Qatar,” said Amstberg, commenting on her postponed visit.

“While recognising Qatar’s growing role as a regional and global actor, international pressure and our efforts to protect human rights will remain central even after the World Cup,” said Amstberg.

Last week, Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser criticised Qatar’s human rights record during an interview with local German broadcaster ARD network ahead of her planned trip to Doha. Faesar’s trip to Qatar, alongside a delegation from the German football federation, will still go ahead this week.

Faeser had described Qatar’s hosting of the tournament as “very tricky” for the German government, saying “it would be better that tournaments are not awarded to such states.”

In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry said it handed the German ambassador to Doha an objection memo to express its “disappointment and complete rejection and condemnation” of Faeser’s remarks.

On Friday, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Dr. Majed Al Ansari described the comments “as unacceptable and provocative for the Qatari people”. 

Dr. Al Ansari stressed that “it was unacceptable for politicians to try and score political points locally at the expense of their relations with other countries.”

“Qatar is currently preparing to be a hub for civilised communication and the promotion of understanding among world nations in a frame of mutual respect during the World Cup,” the foreign ministry statement added, citing Dr Al Ansari.

Meanwhile, the German interior minister’s comment received condemnation from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which expressed its support for Qatar. 

In a statement on Saturday, the GCC’s Secretary General Nayef Al Hajraf said the bloc stands against “the publishing of allegations that do not serve the establishment of normal relations between the two countries as a violation of diplomatic norms, traditions and international laws.”

Anti-Qatar campaign

The latest developments come amid growing criticism over Qatar’s hosting of the major sporting event for its track record in its treatment of migrant workers. 

With the kick off date for the World Cup less than a month away, Qatar has faced increasing scrutiny. Some of the most recent criticism has also focused on Doha’s stance on LGBTQ.

Responding to the incident between Berlin and Doha, former German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel slammed the “German arrogance towards Qatar”.

“How forgetful are we? Homosexuality was a punishable offense in Germany until 1994. My mother still needed her husband’s permission to work. We treated ‘guest workers’ crappy and housed them miserably,” tweeted Gabriel.

The former German vice-Chancellor also said it took Germany “decades to become a liberal country.”

“Progress does not come overnight, but step by step. That was true for and is true for Qatar now. The UN, the ILO [International Labour Organization] praise the country for its reforms. Only we Germans insult it every day,” he added.

The latest criticism by the German interior minister came just days after Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani slammed what he described as “ferocious” attacks against Qatar since it won the bid to host the World Cup.

The amir said that “no other host nation” has faced this level of “ferocious” criticism.

“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has faced an unprecedented campaign that no other host nation has received. And we had handled it at first in good faith while considering some of the criticism positive and beneficial,” Sheikh Tamim told the Shura Council last week.

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