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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Qatar and UK agree on sale of Typhoon aircraft

Agreement comes as Arab countries boycotting Qatar have voiced concern over Doha’s military deals

Qatar has pressed ahead with a deal to buy 24 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from the UK as it looks to increase its military security despite all sides in an ongoing regional dispute claiming to support a diplomatic solution.

The Arab countries boycotting Qatar have voiced concern over Doha’s military deals in a crisis that has now entered the fourth month.

The UK defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, and his Qatari counterpart, Khalid Al Attiyah, signed a statement of intent for the sale of the jets in Doha on Sunday.

The deal marks the first major defence contract between the two countries and will form “the basis for even closer defence cooperation", Mr Fallon said.

The deal represents another agreement viewed by the boycotting countries as what might be the militarisation of what is an otherwise diplomatic dispute.

Days after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, Qatar signed a $12 billion (Dh44bn) agreement to buy 36 F-15 fighter jets from the US.

Doha said the deals were planned before the crisis broke.

The US has made several multi-billion dollar deals with Qatar over the last 10 years, including a $11 billion deal for Apache helicopters in 2014.

The quartet has accused Qatar of ramping up military tensions during the crisis by hosting exercises with Turkey and allowing Turkey to fast track a deployment of troops to the country.

The deal with Turkey was penned in 2014 but was quickly moved through parliament four days after the quartet cut diplomatic ties. The base now holds hundreds of Turkish troops.

The country is also home to the largest American military presence in the Middle East with more than 10,000 personnel hosted at Al Udeid Air Base.

The base serves as a staging ground for air sorties against ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq.

Doha also held talks with Russia to increase its military cooperation last month, with Mr Al Attiyah expressing interest in Russian air-defence systems.

Other GCC countries have also purchased Typhoons. Saudi Arabia has been the biggest buyer of the Typhoon outside of the Eurofighter partner countries, with the delivery due on the final planes of a 72-jet order. The aircraft is also already operational in Oman and has been ordered by Kuwait.

In May, Saudi Arabia signed a $110bn arms deal with the US.