President Halimah Yacob hosts state banquet for Qatari Emir

President Halimah Yacob hosts a state banquet for His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the state of Qatar, at the Istana on Oct 17, 2017. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Qatar have shown that size does not determine a country's success, said President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (Oct 17).

At a state banquet she hosted for visiting Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, Madam Halimah spoke of the long friendship between the two small states and the similarities that bind them.

"The trajectories of growth and development of our two countries show that success does not depend on size," she said during her toast speech at the Istana, noting how both countries have served as dynamic hubs within their regions.

Singapore and Qatar have worked hard to be globally relevant, she said. They are both active, responsible and constructive members of the international community; business-friendly economies; and strong advocates of free trade.

And given their shared outlook and common interests, the relationship between the two countries has grown from strength to strength since diplomatic ties were established in 1984, she said.

Anchoring this close relationship is the Qatar-Singapore High-Level Joint Committee, which Sheikh Tamim himself co-chaired for the first five meetings, playing a pivotal role in advancing the comprehensive partnership the two counties now enjoy, she noted.

Since its establishment in 2006, the joint committee has spawned 28 agreements across a wide range of fields, including urban planning and public administration.

Qatar is the only Middle Eastern country with which Singapore has maintained such a high-level bilateral mechanism.

Qatar and Singapore also enjoy good people-to-people ties, said Madam Halimah. A "small but vibrant" community of nearly 500 Singaporeans live in Qatari capital Doha, while many Qataris visit Singapore for tourism and healthcare.

There is potential to further strengthen the partnership between Qatar and Singapore, she said, adding that she was happy that the first state visit she is hosting was for Sheikh Tamim, an "old friend of Singapore".

While this is his first state visit here since becoming emir in 2013, Singapore has hosted Sheikh Tamim on several occasions, stretching back for more than a decade.

"Your Highness's visit to Singapore will help to inject the necessary momentum to bring this relationship between our two countries to the next level," Madam Halimah said.

Sheikh Tamim, in his speech in Arabic, thanked her for her interest in supporting the friendship and cooperation between their countries.

"I assure you that we reciprocate this interest which is evidenced by our visit today to Singapore, which has witnessed the signing of more agreements that will contribute to promoting and developing our relations," he said.

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