A Cardiff Labour councillor has insisted his recent breakfast with a member of the Qatari royal family was a "personal visit" and not council business.

Cathays councillor Ali Ahmed had posted about his visit to the London home of Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani Al-Thani on Sunday.

“It was an honour and privilege to be invited by [His Excellency] Sheikh Dr Khalid Thani A .T. Al-Thani to his Mayfair London mansion for breakfast this morning, Allhamdulillah," Mr Ahmed wrote.

“I have invited him on behalf of our First Minister and leader of City of Cardiff Cllr Huw Thomas to visit Cardiff for investment opportunity.”

Photographs accompanying the post show Mr Ahmed shaking hands with Sheikh Dr Khalid, and being served a large breakfast spread in a luxurious dining room.

Sheikh Dr Khalid is a member of Qatar's ruling Thali family, and a businessman with financial interests largely in banking and property.

The National Wales: The Cathays councillor posted about his visit with the Qatari Sheikh on Facebook this Sunday. The Cathays councillor posted about his visit with the Qatari Sheikh on Facebook this Sunday.

Despite his social media post, however, Councillor Ahmed denied extending the royal an invitation to discuss investment opportunities in Cardiff, and told The National that the occasion was a "personal visit, not a meeting" and "definitely not on behalf of the Council".

Cllr Ahmed said that he personally knows Sheikh Dr Khalid "and a few members of his family and friends".

"I am not in position to invite [the Sheikh to make investments in Cardiff] - the First Minister and leader of the Council will invite him when suitable for both sides," Mr Ahmed added.

"I do not know if they will invest in Cardiff, but [councillors will] always promote Cardiff to attract investment like any other city."

Mr Ahmed is a member of Cardiff Council's Community & Adult Services Scrutiny Committee, and the city's Planning Committee.

Given that his visit to the Sheikh was not an official one, Mr Ahmed said, no agenda was prepared and no notes of the matters discussed were taken, adding that all travel and accommodation expenses were paid for out of his own pocket.

A delegation from Cardiff Council visited Doha, Qatar, back in 2018, seeking trade and investment.

Council leader Huw 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: A screenshot of photographs posted by Councillor Ahmed on Sunday, following his breakfast with Sheikh Dr Khalid.A screenshot of photographs posted by Councillor Ahmed on Sunday, following his breakfast with Sheikh Dr Khalid.

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.

"The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world's most popular sporting tournament," the newspaper concluded.

Despite sweeping labour reforms passed by the country in 2019, migrant workers in Qatar are still at risk of highly abusive practices, often unable to leave or change their job without first securing the permission of their existing employers.

The National Wales: The building of new World Cup venues in Qatar over the past decade has been marked by controversy. (Picture: PA Wire)The building of new World Cup venues in Qatar over the past decade has been marked by controversy. (Picture: PA Wire)

Human rights charity Amnesty International wrote last year: "The authorities continued to fail to investigate properly the deaths of migrant workers, thousands of whom have died suddenly and unexpectedly in Qatar in the past decade - despite passing mandatory medical tests before travelling to the country.

"Qatar failed to protect a core element of the right to life.

"It also denied the workers’ bereaved families the opportunity to receive compensation from the employer or authorities."

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Trade unions are banned in the country, women are denied basic rights and freedoms, and LGBTQ people are criminalised.

A Welsh Government spokesperson confirmed that Cllr Ahmed was not instructed by the First Minister to invite Sheikh Dr Khalid to Cardiff.

They added: "We are proud that Wales will be competing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“We work hard to raise the profile of Wales and create trade and investment opportunities from our involvement in major events around the world.

“We also believe that it is better to engage with countries that do not always share our values on human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights and political and religious freedom.

"Engaging with countries provides an opportunity to develop a platform for further discussion, to raise awareness and to potentially influence a change in approach.”

Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas was approached for comment.

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