The leader of Cardiff Council and the First Minister have been urged to rule out meeting with the Qatari royal family, after a recent visit by a Cathays councillor to the London home of Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani Al-Thani.

Cardiff Liberal Democrat councillor Rhys Taylor said that the capital city should instead "stand up strongly for human rights, democracy and liberty", highlighting Qatar's notoriously poor record on LGBT and women's rights, and evidence of slave labour use in the country.

This week The National reported that Labour councillor Ali Ahmed had visited Sheikh Dr Khalid - a cousin of Qatar's current Emir - at his Mayfair mansion, later posting on social media that he had invited the royal to Cardiff "on behalf of" First Minister Mark Drakeford and Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas to discuss "investment opportunities".

Mr Ahmed has now denied making this offer, insisting that the visit was "personal".

Councillor Rhys Taylor, who represents Gabalfa, said: “Cllr Ali Ahmed has managed to cause a lot of confusion with his recent actions.

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"Despite it now being clarified this was a personal visit rather than professional, I am not entirely sure discussing investment opportunities in Cardiff and potential meetings with the Council Leader and First Minister fall into a personal remit.

“I would like to see both Council Leader Huw Thomas and First Minister Mark Drakeford rule out meeting with Qatari Royals.

“We know Qatar has one of the worst human rights records in the world, with the country ranking 126/167 on the world democracy index and performing poorly on woman’s rights, with a male guardianship system still in place that means most women still need the permission of a male guardian to carry out everyday tasks.

“Being gay is still punishable by death in the country and foreign migrants have been continuously used for slave labour.

“We all want Cardiff to attract investment, but this can be done ethically in a way that sees us stand up strongly for human rights, democracy and liberty.”

Back in 2018, council leader Huw Thomas led a delegation to Doha, Qatar, seeking to promote trade and investment between the country and Cardiff.

Mr Thomas said at the time: ""This trip will give us the chance to tell Cardiff's story to key investors across the globe.

"Our city is booming and there are fantastic opportunities for global companies to come and invest here.

"So it's important - despite Brexit - the world sees Cardiff as being open for business and we need to ensure that all of these big city projects and plans translate into economic prosperity whose benefits can be shared by everyone who lives here."

The National Wales: Councillor Ahmed now claims that the visit was personal, and denies inviting the Sheikh to Cardiff.Councillor Ahmed now claims that the visit was personal, and denies inviting the Sheikh to Cardiff.

Qatar is the host nation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and, owing to the country's disturbing record on human rights, it's a controversial one.

An investigation by The Guardian back in 2013 accused the nation of using "slaves" in the construction of infrastructure for the World Cup, with evidence of forced labour, workers claiming that their passports were routinely seized and their pay withheld by bosses to prevent them from running away.

In the summer of that year, the labourers on the World Cup project - largely immigrants from Nepal - died at a rate of one per day, often to heart attacks or workplace accidents.

It's estimated that at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since 2011, with a significant proportion of them likely to have travelled to the country for projects related to the World Cup.

Cardiff Council, the office of the First Minister, and Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas have been approached for comment.

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