Hollande on two-day trip to Qatar

French President François Hollande is in the Gulf kingdom to discuss trade and the conflict in Syria, before travelling to Jordan on Sunday.

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

French President François Hollande on Saturday began a two-day visit to Qatar, which is to focus on trade and the conflict in Syria as the ministers of 11 countries meet in the Gulf kingdom to consider arming Syria‘s rebels, reports Europe Online Magazine.

Hollande‘s talks with Qatar‘s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, risk being overshadowed by Saturday‘s Friends of Syria meeting between the foreign ministers of the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Egypt and Qatar.

The meeting is to consider requests by the rebel Free Syrian Army for heavy weapons to stop President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces and the allied Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah from retaking more territory after they routed rebel fighters from the strategic town of al-Kussair.

Qatar is believed to have been arming the rebels for some time.

While campaigning for the lifting of an EU arms embargo on the rebels, France has balked at going further because of the presence within the rebels‘ ranks of jihadist groups.

Several ministers and French business leaders are to accompany Hollande to a Franco-Qatari economic form. Hollande is to also visit the Qatar Petroleum District, a commercial development being built by the French company Bouygues.

Faced with stagnant growth and spiralling unemployment, France is hoping to secure more contracts with oil-rich Qatar, namely in defence, transportation and energy.