Qatar's Emir meets PSG’s Mbappe at state dinner during France visit

Attempts to organise an Israel-Gaza ceasefire dominated the first day of Sheikh Tamim's state visit

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Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim was guest of honour at a state dinner hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening, where France football captain Kylian Mbappe joined political, business and entertainment figures in attendance.

Mbappe plays for Paris Saint-Germain, which is owned by a Qatari entity and PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi is a part of the Emir's inner circle.

Sheikh Tamim arrived in Paris on Tuesday for his first state visit to France, a trip that will involve discussions on a ceasefire in Gaza with Mr Macron.

This is the first official visit by a Qatari head of state to France since Sheikh Tamim's father, Sheikh Hamad, was hosted by Nicolas Sarkozy, French president at the time, in 2009.

Mr Macron welcomed Sheikh Tamim to France, saying on X: "It is an honour for France to receive you. Our ties are a living testimony of Franco-Qatari friendship.

"Let us continue to work together for peace in the Middle East and respect for international law throughout the world."

At the start of the state dinner, Mr Macron said Qatar had agreed to invest €10 billion in the French economy by 2030.

Attempts to organise an Israel-Gaza ceasefire to allow the release of hostages held in Gaza dominated the first day of the state visit.

Sheikh Tamim and Mr Macron reaffirmed during their talks the need to "very quickly" achieve a ceasefire, the French presidential office said.

The two leaders also discussed prospects for creating a Palestinian state and other bilateral co-operation, including humanitarian aid for Gaza, the Elysee said.

Further discussions will focus on the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which include three French citizens, and efforts to achieve a ceasefire, advisers said.

“Qatar is both a central partner in regional stabilisation efforts and Qatar is also working on freeing the hostages,” they said.

Signs are growing that a truce in the Gaza war may at last be around the corner, with the US determined to pause the conflict before Ramadan and Hamas appearing to soften some of its conditions.

Qatar and France are also working on sending more humanitarian aid to Gaza, with planes carrying 10 ambulances and more than 300 tents scheduled to land in Al Arish airport, Egypt, early next week, said the advisers.

“Massive humanitarian aid is now necessary and, at this stage, we see that the entry of this aid is not sufficient,” one of Mr Macron's advisers said.

France is among the countries to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and the opening of more crossing points into the enclave, including at Rafah and Kerem Shalom.

Paris on Monday supported Jordan in dropping aid into Gaza for the second time since the start of the five-month war in which more than 29,800 Palestinians have been killed.

The French Defence Ministry shared videos and pictures showing soldiers bundling 2.2 tonnes of food and hygiene kits in the city of Toulouse, before placing them on pallets at a Jordanian airport and pushing them out of planes over the embattled enclave.

A C130 aircraft belonging to the French army and three Jordanian planes were involved in the operation, the French Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

France and Qatar also plan to discuss support for Lebanon, where Israeli strikes hit the outskirts of the city of Baalbek on Monday in the latest escalation of fighting with Iran-backed Hezbollah – a spillover effect of the Gaza war.

Qatar has in the past sent financial support to the cash-strapped Lebanese army, while France has engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to solve the country's protracted financial crisis.

“We continue our efforts and our mobilisation to avoid an escalation in the region and, particularly, in Lebanon,” one of Mr Macron's advisers said.

Paris and Doha are also scheduled to sign several agreements, including pacts between the French Agency for Development and the Qatar Foundation for Development.

Updated: February 28, 2024, 7:52 AM