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S. Korea, Qatar agree to form top-level cooperation mechanism
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Leaders of South Korea and Qatar agreed Thursday to form a top-level cooperation mechanism handling all issues of cooperation between the two countries from oil and energy to science and technology, military and security, and green growth, officials said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed to the establishment of a "High-level Strategic Cooperation Committee" after Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani suggested the mechanism to expand the scope of bilateral cooperation to all sectors, senior presidential press secretary Choe Geum-nak said.

"The two leaders will take charge of the committee in person," Choe said. "This means that the two leaders can resolve problems directly through a hot line when lower-level discussions hit a snag."

The Qatari leader also called on South Korea to play greater roles in his efforts to transform the "desert nation" into an industrial country, senior presidential secretary on green growth Kim Sang-hyup said.

Lee arrived in Doha earlier Thursday on missions to ensure a stable supply of crude oil to South Korea and to campaign for South Korean builders to participate in major real estate development and infrastructure construction projects in the Middle Eastern nation.

Qatar is trying to develop Doha's Musheireb area into an architectural center and build an ultra-modern city in Lusail, north of the capital. The country is also planning a series of infrastructure construction projects ahead of its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

Lee met with Qatar's urban planning minister, Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Khalifa Al Thani, and asked for his support for South Korean firms trying to participate in the Musheireb and Lusail projects, emphasizing that South Korean builders have rich experience in new city construction and real estate development, the presidential office said.

Lee also asked the minister to help South Korean firms expand their participation in infrastructure construction projects ahead of the World Cup, saying Korean builders have know-how in Middle Eastern construction projects and cutting-edge technologies, the office said in a statement.

The Qatari minister said the country is planning a slew of massive construction projects and he hopes South Korean companies will play big parts in those projects, according to presidential secretary Choe. South Korea's construction minister, Kwon Do-youp, will visit Qatar in the near future to discuss specifics, he said.

Qatar is a key market for South Korean builders, with last year's orders amounting to $1.83 billion. For South Korea, the country is the No. 1 liquefied natural gas exporter and the third largest crude provider.

On the sidelines of Lee's visit, South Korean Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo and his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, signed a memorandum of understanding on industrial and energy cooperation.

The agreement is expected to help boost cooperation in oil supplies, renewable energy development and other energy issues, while accelerating cooperation in other industrial matters. Under the agreement, the two sides are expected to hold their first joint committee meeting as early as April, officials said.

The Korea Gas Corp. also signed a contract to purchase liquefied natural gas from Qatar for 21 years. The contract calls for providing South Korea with 1.5-2 million tons of LNG a year until 2032.


Earlier, Lee attended a forum of business leaders of the two countries and called for expanding the scope of cooperation between the sides beyond the energy and construction sectors.

Lee also said the Middle Eastern nation and South Korea can be good partners for projects on climate change, noting Qatar is hosting this year's U.N. Climate Change Conference, and South Korea is spearheading "green growth" as a key state policy.

"Coping with climate change will be a promising area of cooperation for the two countries," Lee said during the forum, explaining how his government has been promoting environment-friendly technologies and industries.

"If Qatar's green vision is combined with South Korea's green technologies, I believe it will generate big synergy effects," he said.

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Source: Yonhap News (Feb. 10, 2012)

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