LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday urged Qatar to plough more of its vast oil and gas wealth into infrastructure projects across Britain during an official visit from the Gulf state’s emir.
Cameron asked Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to consider further funding to help Britain’s push to develop cities in the north of the country and connect them to London using a high speed rail line, a statement released by his office said.
Qatar is one of the world’s richest countries and is already heavily invested in British firms and property.
Among its highest profile investments are London’s tallest building, the Shard, which was funded by the Qatari royal family, and the upmarket Harrods department store owned by sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority.
“The Prime Minister ... encouraged the Emir to consider more opportunities across the country, particularly the government’s plan to establish a Northern Powerhouse by connecting our great Northern cities and the development of high speed rail,” the statement said.
Earlier this week the British government said it was backing the development of a fast rail link between the English cities of Leeds and Manchester, in addition to an existing 43 billion pound plan to develop high speed links to London.
During the state visit, which also included a meeting with the Queen as well as senior politicians and executives, the two countries signed an agreement setting out a framework for further talks on issues such as defence, energy and trade.
Prior to Sheikh Tamim’s visit, British lawmakers had called for Cameron to question him on accusations - denied by Qatar - that it had financed Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.
“They discussed the role both countries are playing in the coalition to tackle ISIL (IS), and the importance of all countries working to tackle extremism and support to terrorist organisations,” the statement said, adding that Cameron had welcomed recent legislation in Qatar to block terrorist funding.
A German cabinet minister accused Qatar in August of financing Islamic State militants and the United States has expressed concern about funding by individuals or charities in Arab states, although Qatar has since joined in U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.
In September, Sheikh Tamim said his country was not aiding Islamic State in Iraq or Syria, telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his own country’s security was jeopardised by the militants.
Editing by Tom Heneghan