Qatar leader praises Russia’s World Cup ahead of US visit

DOHA: Qatar’s emir on Friday praised Russia’s “cooperation” in preparing the World Cup in a call with President Vladimir Putin while US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is due in the Gulf state, official statements said.

Russia was barred from international football this year over its invasion of Ukraine and Qatar has criticized Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories, but Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani spoke with Putin, whose country organized the 2018 World Cup, two days before the tournament starts.

Diplomats say Russia has largely been frozen out of preparations since its February invasion.

Russia took part in an international security exercise for the World Cup last year.

A statement released by the emir’s office said Putin congratulated Qatar on the World Cup hosting.

It added that the emir thanked Putin for his message, “praising Russia’s cooperation in organizing this global event.”

No senior Russian officials are expected in Doha for the World Cup, but top US diplomat Blinken starts a two-day visit on Monday, the state department said.

Blinken will “recognize Qatar’s important contribution to international sports diplomacy as it hosts the World Cup,” said the US statement.

Blinken will be at the launch of the annual US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, meeting Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and other top officials.

He will also see the US team’s opening match against Wales on Monday.

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