Qatar, France sign fighter jet deal amid Gulf crisis
Qatar announced Thursday a deal to buy 12 French-built Rafale fighter jets, as it faces a boycott by neighbouring Gulf states in the region’s worst political crisis in years.
The 1.1-billion-euro ($1.3 billion) order, announced during an official visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, allows for an option to buy a further 36 jets.
It comes on top of a 2015 agreement on the purchase of 24 Dassault Aviation-built Rafale warplanes.
Also on Thursday, Qatar Airways announced a 5.5-billion-euro ($6.4 billion) deal to buy 50 Airbus A321 planes, with an option for 36 more.
The two countries also signed a three-billion-euro ($3.5 billion) deal on the operation and maintenance of the Doha Metro, currently being built as the country prepares for the football World Cup in 2022.
The contracts were inked in the presence of Macron and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Qatar also signed a letter of intent for the purchase of 490 VBCI armoured vehicles from Nexter, a French-government owned weapons manufacturer, in a potential deal worth 1.5 billion euros, the Elysee said.
The military contracts come at a time of heightened crisis in the Gulf, where a four-state boycott of Qatar is in its sixth month.
Since June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have cut all ties with Qatar, accusing the emirate of supporting Islamist extremists and of being too close to Shiite Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival.
Qatar denies the allegations and has accused the Saudi-led bloc of aiming to incite regime change in Doha.