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Qatar PM to visit Washington as Gaza cease-fire talks advance

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister, is expected to meet with senior members of the US administration and lawmakers next week.
Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani speaks during a session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on January 16, 2024. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The prime minister of Qatar will visit Washington next week as the Biden administration pursues a breakthrough deal to halt the war between Israel and Hamas, sources familiar with the visit told Al-Monitor.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, is expected to meet with senior members of the administration and top lawmakers. 

His visit comes as the Gulf state of Qatar, which for more than a decade has hosted Hamas’ political office in Doha, continues to help lead hostage negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian militant group. 

Hamas-led fighters abducted some 240 people when they stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7. Around half, most of them women and children, were freed as part of a Qatar- and Egypt-mediated cease-fire deal in late November, which also saw the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. 

Domestic pressure has been mounting on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut a deal with Hamas that would free the more than 100 hostages who remain captive in the Gaza Strip. The Qatari foreign ministry on Wednesday accused Netanyahu of undermining the negotiations after the Israeli leader was heard in a leaked audio recording criticizing Qatar’s “problematic” mediation due to its relationship with Hamas. 

Before traveling to Washington, the Qatari premier will reportedly meet in Europe this weekend with CIA Director Bill Burns and Israeli Mossad chief David Barnea for discussions on a second potential hostage deal. 

Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and whose intelligence service has contact with Hamas’ military wing, has also led negotiations on the hostages and the delivery of humanitarian aid. Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel will participate in the meetings, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on Burns’ travel.

The Biden administration is seeking a pause in Israel’s more than three-month war against Hamas in exchange for the remaining hostages’ return. A State Department official said the administration hopes a pause-for-hostages agreement would pave the way for a broader diplomatic deal on Gaza’s eventual reconstruction and a pathway to a two-state solution.

US officials have proposed using a long-sought normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel as leverage with Netanyahu to secure a pathway for Palestinian statehood.