SINGAPORE and Qatar are small countries seeking to build up a network of ties beyond their immediate regions and can hence act as launch pads for each other's goals, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday.
Both are striving to "engage countries beyond our immediate neighbourhood, and making friends all over the world," he said at an official dinner to welcome Qatari PM Sheikh Abdullah Nasser Khalifa Al Thani (with PM Lee in photo above). This similar strategic outlook means Singapore can be a launch pad for Qatar's engagement of East Asia, just as Qatar can be Singapore's gateway into the Middle East.
Bilateral ties, overseen by a High-Level Joint Committee inaugurated in 2006, have also made significant progress, said Mr Lee in his speech on Wednesday at Raffles Hotel. It is the key platform for engagement, and as a result, partnership between both countries now spans areas such as investments and energy.
But more can be done in the regions Singapore and Qatar are in. ASEAN and the Gulf Cooperation Council - an alliance that includes Qatar - can work together, he added. Mr Lee said the Middle East has been rocked by issues such as the Arab Spring. But there were bright spots.
"The Gulf Cooperation economies are growing steadily, and pursuing closer regional integration," he said. Qatar's gross domestic product has grown 13 per cent annually for the past five years, and it will be hosting the 2022 World Cup, he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, as part of his two-day itinerary on his first visit here as Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah was officially welcomed at the Istana by Mr Lee.
He then called on Mr Lee and Acting President J.Y. Pillay, and also met Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. He also visited the Botanic Gardens where an orchid hybrid was named in his honour.
During his meetings with Singapore leaders, they reaffirmed their strong ties. He said both countries enjoyed good cooperation, especially the collaboration between the Home Affairs Ministry and Qatar's Interior Ministry.
On Thursday, Sheikh Abdullah, who is also Qatar's Interior Minister, co-chaired the Qatar-Singapore High-Level Joint Committee meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
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