(Bloomberg) -- Qatar’s ruler appointed a close aide as the country’s new prime minister after the resignation of Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, who had held the position since the emir came to power in June 2013.
Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani, who was the head of the emir’s court, is the new prime minister and minister of interior, the state-run Qatar News Agency reported on Tuesday. No reason was given for the previous premier’s resignation.
The appointment comes at a delicate time for Qatar. A three-year standoff with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt continues to cast a pall over regional politics, despite some signs late last year that the countries were moving closer to rapprochement. Recent tensions between Iran and the U.S. have also raised pressure on the emirate: the country is home to the biggest U.S. military base in the Middle East but shares the world’s largest natural gas field with Iran.
“There were rumors Abdullah bin Nasser wanted to resign,” said Andreas Krieg, a lecturer in the department of defense studies at King’s College in London and a former adviser to the Qatari military. The new prime minister “has proven himself to be an excellent manager able to balance different interests while heading the Diwan since 2014. The Diwan in many ways is like managing a cabinet.”
The new prime minister was born in 1968. Since 2014, he has been chief of the Amiri Diwan, an office that manages interactions between the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and government ministries and non-government entities, according to a biography on the Diwan’s website. He’d worked for Sheikh Tamim since March 2006, when he joined his office at the Diwan.
“As the chief of the Diwan and the director of Tamim’s office as crown prince, Khalid bin Khalifa is definitionally one of Tamim’s key confidants,” said David B. Roberts, an assistant professor at King’s College London who studies the Gulf. His appointment defied expectations that Abdullah bin Naser would be replaced by Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Roberts said.
The benchmark Qatar Exchange Index slid 0.6% on Tuesday trading, while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 0.7% at 2 p.m. in Doha. Investors globally are gauging the effectiveness of efforts to stop the spread of the SARS-like coronavirus from China.
The ministers of foreign affairs, defense, finance and energy will all retain their positions. The emir also appointed Major General Abdulaziz bin Faisal bin Mohammed Al Thani to lead the country’s internal security force, QNA said.
(Updates with new appointment to security force in last paragraph.)
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