US and Qatar seal $12bn deal for F-15 fighter jets days after Trump accused Doha of funding terrorism
The United States and Qatar have signed a deal for the purchase of F-15 fighter jets with an initial cost of $12bn, amid the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Qatar and a number of its Gulf neighbors.
The Pentagon on Thursday also deployed two warships to waters off Qatar to carry out joint maneuvers with the Qatari Navy in the Gulf. The vessels docked in Hamad Port, south Doha, on Wednesday, the Qatari defense ministry said.
The arms deal and naval exercise move represent US support for Qatar as well as strong military links United States maintains with a country currently in a dispute with several other Arab nations.
“The $12-billion sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The jet deal was finalized by Qatari Minister of Defence Khalid Al Attiyah and his US counterpart Jim Mattis in Washington DC on Wednesday, according to Qatar News Agency (QNA).
Mattis and Attiyah had also discussed the need to de-escalate tensions between Qatar and four Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia, it added.
Attiyah said the agreement underscores the “longstanding commitment of the state of Qatar in jointly working with our friends and allies in the United States in advancing our military cooperation for closer strategic collaboration in our fight to counter violent extremism and promote peace and stability in our region and beyond”.
Al-Attiyah called the deal “yet another step in advancing our strategic and cooperative defense relationship with the United States.”
Qatar signs LOA for the purchase of the F-15QA fighter jets creating 60,000 new jobs in 42 states across the United States pic.twitter.com/tnOAC3KGma
— Meshal Hamad AlThani (@Amb_AlThani) June 14, 2017
Qatar facing diplomatic crisis and isolation from Gulf neighbors
The sale of US combat aircraft comes at a critical time as Qatar is facing regional isolation and the severing of travel and trade by Gulf countries. Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE severed ties and trade with Qatar, accused Doha of funding terrorism and announced an air blockade.
US arms deal took Gulf countries by surprise
The announcement comes after a week of somewhat mixed messages from the Trump administration regarding the quarrel between Doha and number of Arab nations. President Donald Trump seemed to back the move, saying last week that Qatar had to do more to combat the funding of terrorism.
Last week, Tillerson called for an easing of the ban on Qatar – but hours later, Mr. Trump did not reflect similar sentiments.
“The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level,” Mr. Trump said on Friday at the White House. He added “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding.”
Qatar is host to one of the Pentagon’s largest military bases in the Middle East. Currently, there are more than 10,000 U.S. service members at the U.S. central command base in Qatar.
Qatar complains to ICAO
Energy-rich Qatar, whose land, maritime and aviation routes have been interrupted by its Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, has asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to intervene
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said it would host talks of ministers and senior officials from the complainant Qatar and the four other Gulf nations to seek a “consensus-based solution.”
– IRIA Editor Sana Jamal contributed to this report.