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German rights commissioner axes pre-World Cup Qatar trip

The German government’s human rights commissioner on Sunday cancelled a trip to Qatar next week as tensions mount between Berlin and the Gulf state over the football World Cup.

Luise Amtsberg had been due to visit Qatar on Monday, along with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and head of the German football federation Bernd Neuendorf.

But on Friday Qatar summoned Germany’s ambassador over comments from Faeser that cast doubt on whether the Gulf state should host the tournament. 

The conservative Islamic state has faced widespread criticism over its treatment of migrant workers, as well as rights for the LGBTQ community and women.

Amtsberg — from the Green party — said she was postponing her visit to a later date. 

“The developments this weekend have made it clear to me how difficult it is… to hold the open and critical talks that I had planned with the Qatari government on the human rights situation (there),” she said in a statement. 

“As human rights commissioner, the environment for talks is crucial for me.”

The interior ministry confirmed that Faeser would still go ahead with her visit.

Qatar’s move to call in the German envoy marked the first time a foreign ambassador had been summoned over critical comments. 

The Gulf state’s foreign minister said Faeser’s remarks were “unacceptable and provocative” and required a “clarification”. On Saturday, the Gulf Cooperation Council also condemned the comments.

The minister, in an interview with the ARD network aired Thursday, said Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup next month was “very tricky” for Germany.

She added: “There are criteria that must be adhered to and it would be better that tournaments are not awarded to such states.”

Faeser, in a statement released ahead of her visit, had also said that rights would be raised in talks.

Qatar has highlighted widespread improvements in its labour and industrial safety record in recent years, that have been hailed by international labour unions.

Rights groups have accused it of under-reporting deaths on construction sites over the past decade, and have campaigned for Qatar and football governing body FIFA to set up a compensation fund for workers.

The spat comes at an awkward time for Germany, which has been negotiating for supplies of Qatari natural gas to make up for losses in Russian deliveries, slashed since the start of the Ukraine war.

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