By Jim Workman for WV Press Association
An official partnership between the state of West Virginia and the country of Qatar could lead to economic development and much more, officials announced Monday, May 14.
Gov. Jim Justice and Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, hosted Qatar’s Defense Attaché, Brig. Gen. Yousef Al Kuwari along with Qatar’s Air Force Attaché, Col. Mohamed Al Manai and Qatar’s Army Attaché, Col. Khalid Al Naimi at the State Capitol.
Justice said discussions have begun, “…in agriculture, of all things.”
“Their country is in its infancy of developing agriculture,” Justice said. “And we have talked about developing agriculture in West Virginia, where no one thought was possible. There are many things to come, beneficial to both sides, including infrastructure, airports, hospitality, natural gas and on and on and on.”
Good things are happening in the state, Justice said. “There’s hope in West Virginia,” he said. “(With) things that haven’t happened in a long, long time.”
The press conference and ceremony announced a newly established State Partnership Program partnership. The West Virginia National Guard previously announced a selection to be linked with Qatar in April.
“This is one of the things that can led to more stability and peace in the Middle East region and around the world,” Hoyer said. “My wife and I are parents of two guardsmen. I’m responsible for 6,500 guardsmen. My primary focus for the governor is to be ready, have our organization. And our primary focus is deterring war and preserving peace. That’s the number one opportunity and responsibility of this partnership – to build those capabilities together, those cultural understandings.”
The West Virginia-Qatar relationship could lead to more partnerships with other countries. But Hoyer pointed out that Qatar is only the latest such partnership.
“There are 72 partnerships with the West Virginia National Guard,” said Hoyer. “The first was established in 1993 after the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Soviet Union. Those first partners are in the Baltic region. Imagine how important those partners are right now, in the course of world events that we’re involved in. They’re crucial.”
Qatar’s geographic location, bordering Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, makes the partnership even more critical, Sen. Joe Manchin said.
“We have one common enemy, all of us, and that is Iran,” said Manchin, D-WV. “This helps us in the fight we have to unite to save that part of the world. Iran has been a supporter of terrorism, which has to be stopped.”
Manchin also pointed to an economic impact that the Qatar and West Virginia relations could have.
“The petrochemicals industry – they understand that business real well,” Manchin said. “Their interest in investments could be tremendous opportunities for the state of West Virginia. And this is good for our country.”
Officials from Qatar are expected to come to West Virginia to observe the National Guard’s security duties during the upcoming 2019 Boy Scout World Jamboree, a 12-day event in Fayette County, Hoyer said. In turn, West Virginia National Guard units may head to Qatar for its upcoming FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in 2022.
“That’s part of the discussion we’ll have,” Hoyer said. “We’ll work together, they can observe the Jamboree security initiatives we have engaged.”
The West Virginia National Guard has experience providing personnel at the Olympics and at Brazil during the World Cup in 2014, Hoyer said.
“We have a unit that is capable and highly respected,” he added. “We’ll be ready to build on those partnerships.”
Building personal relationships are key, Hoyer added.
“It’s about understanding each other,” he said. We all have differences, but we can build on our similarities and understanding each other culturally so we can work more cooperatively together.”