The official’s statements come before US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to Qatar, which faces accusations of human rights violations.
Kerry will travel to Doha on Monday and Tuesday to participate in the strategic dialogue between the United States and Qatar and to attend a World Cup match.
Qatar has come under scrutiny over its hosting of the tournament, including for abuses against migrant workers, as well as discrimination against LGBT people and women.
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Daniel Benaim, said in a conference call that the World Cup “provided an opportunity to further improve our cooperation in the areas of security, cultural exchange, combating human trafficking, labor issues and many other issues.”
He added, “Labor issues, as I said, have been a regular topic in our ongoing talks with the Qatari government, and they precede the World Cup and will remain so, including the visit of US Under Secretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights Ezra Zia.”
He continued, “With regard to employment in particular, they have embarked on a program of reforms in several years, I think largely out of heroism, including working conditions, minimum wages, facilitating job changes and others.”
He said, “We had an ongoing and in-depth dialogue on those points and on the full implementation of those reforms that are under way and that we expect to continue for some time to come.”
According to Human Rights Watch, the migrant workers who worked to build the tournament’s infrastructure faced abuses “including illegal recruitment fees, wage theft, injuries and deaths, and reforms introduced by the Qatari authorities came too late or were too weak.”
In response to a question about the “discrimination” practiced by the Qatari state against homosexuals, Daniel Benaim said: “There was a general assurance from the Emir of Qatar (Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad) to the fans that his country and the World Cup are open to all and welcome,” adding that “this was One of the issues we have discussed with the Qatari government and we will continue to discuss.”
And the Emir of Qatar had said, earlier, that “visitors are expected to respect our culture.”
According to Human Rights Watch, the Qatari Penal Code “punishes same-sex relations with up to 7 years in prison.”