The landlocked East European country Belarus is celebrating its Independence Day today. Although the Republic of Belarus became a sovereign state on 25th December 1991 after becoming independent from the Soviet Union, the decision to celebrate July 3rd as the day of independence was made through a national referendum in 1996 under President Alexander Lukashenko. The reason for choosing July 3rd over 25th December is that it was on July 3rd 1944 that Minsk, capital of Belarus was liberated from the Nazis during the Minsk offensive codenamed Bagration.
Qatar and Belarus established diplomatic relations on the 16 of February in 1996 and the 20th anniversary of the relationship was celebrated earlier this year. Joint cooperation in the political arena, reinforcing economic ties, expansion of people’s relations have been the hallmarks of the Qatar-Belarus relationship.
The Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited Qatar in 2001 and again in 2011 paving the way for cooperation between the two countries in many sectors of mutual interest. The former Emir of Qatar H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in 2009 reciprocated and visited Belarus, thereby strengthening the bonds between the two countries even further. High-level bilateral visits between Qatar and Belarus occur frequently.
Belarus opened its first embassy in Doha in June, 2014. With the opening of the mission, cooperation on political matters has only become more dynamic. Roman Golovchenko currently holding the position of Belarus’s Ambassador to the UAE is the non-resident Ambassador to Qatar.
Qatar’s Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met in Istanbul in April this year on the side-lines of the Islamic Cooperation Organisation. Issues of mutual benefit that are in the interest of the further strengthening the bilateral ties were on the agenda of discussion.
Due to the strategic positions both Qatar and Belarus hold in geographic terms, the two countries have found it in their interest to proactively cooperate and support one another at the UN and its cognate bodies. Qatar and Belarus have proactively taken part in the activities of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking and the Group of Friends of the Family in the UN.
As a result of the stable and successful bilateral ties Qatar and Belarus have established since 1996, cooperation in economic and investment sectors have proven beneficial to both countries. Qatar imports products such as fertilizers, electrical measurement devices, furniture, ceramic and porcelain products etc. from Belarus whereas Belarus imports ethylene polymers from Qatar, mostly.
The Governments of Qatar and Belarus established a Joint Committee in 2009 with an aim to produce mutually beneficial macro environment necessary for the growth of bilateral trade. The Joint Committee met for a 3rd time in Doha in April earlier this year.
The internationally rated five-star hotel Marriott, a part of Qatar’s big investment project in Belarus, was inaugurated in early 2016 in the capital city of Minsk. The construction on the project had begun in June, 2012. Additionally, a number of developmental projects in Belarus are pending approval with the Qatar Investment authority, Qatari Diar, Nebras power and other private and state entities. The Twinning Agreement was signed upon the visit of Al Rayan Municipality to the Belarusian city of Mogilev in Octorber 2010, making Al Rayan Municipality and Mogilev the twin cities.
Belarus and Qatar have also been cooperating in the field of sports, particularly in Winter sports segment. Cooperation to enhance and further cultural ties has also been moving at a steady pace, cultural festivals were held in March, 2012 and June, 2012 in Qatar and Belarus respectively.