Qatar goes ahead with $12bn USA fighter jet deal despite Trump's criticism

Friday, 23 Jun, 2017

Other Gulf countries recently cut ties with Doha, accusing it of destabilising the region through its alleged support of extremist groups and links to Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson initially declined to take sides, but his cautious approach was overshadowed nearly immediately by President Donald Trump - who sent tweets appearing to take credit for and praising the Saudi-led bloc's decision.

The sale "will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar", the defence department said in a statement. It added that Mattis and Attiyah had also discussed the current state of operations against Islamic State and the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Gulf.

Details of the Wednesday deal have not been disclosed but Bloomberg reported that it could include 236 jets.

Qatar signs a deal to purchase $12bn worth of F-15 jets from the US, Defense Ministry of Qatar says. In the midst of a burgeoning crisis in the Middle East, the president is condemning Qatar for allegedly funding terrorism, while Trump's Pentagon sells Qatar billions of dollars in fighter jets.

Boeing which is the maker of these fighter planes did not comment on the controversial sale. He called the trip a "routine port visit", though Qatar's state-run news agency described the presence as being part of a "joint exercise" with the Qatari Navy.

The Qatari defence ministry issued a statement Wednesday hailing the F-15 deal. So far, the dispute between Doha and nations led by Saudi Arabia has yet to shake that partnership, though cracks are showing in responses from Trump and his administration.

Pentagon and State Department officials have since scrambled to reassure the emirate, which hosts the largest USA airbase in the Middle East and the command headquarters for U.S. military operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Kuwait has played a role in trying to end the Gulf conflict since it started, with the country's emir visiting Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Qatar last week.

"We see it as a tangible show of support for our defense relationship and their commitment to the United States", spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

He was quoted by Kuwait's al-Qabas newspaper and Qatar-based Al Jazeera as saying that Turkey had a neutral stance toward Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the private talks, said the airspace dispute would be hard to resolve because it is a symptom of a larger row between the countries. Riyadh sealed its border, closed its air space to Qatari Airways and - along with Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt - severed diplomatic relations.

Energy-rich Qatar, whose land, maritime and aviation routes have been interrupted by a quartet comprising Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, sent officials to Montreal, where the UN aviation agency is based.

Trump, who took office in January, has accused Qatar of being a "high-level" sponsor of terrorism, potentially hindering the State Department's efforts to help ease the worst diplomatic crisis between Gulf Arab states for years.