The US has signed a $12-billion deal to sell F-15 fighter jets to Qatar amid a dispute engulfing the Persian Gulf region, which saw President Donald Trump siding with a Saudi-led bloc of nations facing off against Doha.
Qatar’s Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday the country had signed a deal to buy F-15 fighter jets from Washington for $12 billion.
According to Qatar News Agency (QNA), the deal was inked by Qatari Defense Khalid al-Attiyah and his US counterpart, James Mattis, in Washington.
The Pentagon also announced in a statement that the sale would give Qatar “a state of the art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability” between Doha and Washington.
It added that Attiyah and Mattis also discussed the current level of operations against the Daesh terrorist group as well as the importance of reducing tensions in the Persian Gulf region.
Attiyah, in turn, said the agreement underscores the “commitment in advancing our military cooperation for closer strategic collaboration in our fight to counter violent extremism.”
The announcement came days after the US president accused Qatar of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism.
In early June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) abruptly cut relations with Doha and suspended all land, air and sea traffic with the monarchy, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region.
Trump later took to Twitter to praise the move, implying that it was the fruit of his first visit to the Middle East in late May.
“I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar-look!” he wrote, referring to his talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, adding that “perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism.”
During the visit, Trump signed the largest single arms deal in US history with Saudi King Salman to sell Riyadh $110 billion in arms.
Following Trump’s harsh stance, Washington began to send a series of mixed messages on the dispute, with the State Department attempting to distance itself from the president’s comments and urging calm.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also called on the parties involved in the dispute with Qatar to ease the blockade against the Persian Gulf state, which is home to some 10,000 US troops.
On Wednesday, two US navy vessels arrived at a port in Doha to take part in joint military drills with the Qatari navy. It is not clear if the deployment was planned before the recent heightened tensions in the region, or whether it is a sign of support for Qatar from the US.
Turkey steps up mediation efforts
Amid the diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the Persian Gulf crisis, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha on Wednesday, where he called for dialog to de-escalate the tensions.
“This needs to be overcome through dialogue and through peace. Turkey will also make its contribution. God willing, we will overcome this and we are working to overcome this. This is the purpose of these visits,” Cavusoglu told Anadolu news agency after the talks, describing the current situation as deeply undesirable.
Cavusoglu is also scheduled to travel to Kuwait on Thursday before holding talks with Saudi King Salman in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
Also on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Morocco to discuss the Qatari crisis with Moroccan King Mohamed VI.
At a press conference following the discussions, Macron said both France and Morocco were keen on mediating a solution.
“The king of Morocco shares our concern: France would like to see the countries talking again and for the [Persian] Gulf to remain stable, not least because these states are stakeholders in the crises in Syria and Libya,” Macron said.
“The king of Morocco has met with several of those involved. Myself, I have met all the leaders from the region,” Macron said, noting that he will meet a top UAE leader in Paris next week.
Kuwait has also been playing the role of mediator between Qatar and the four Arab states.
Last week, Kuwait’s emir traveled to Qatar after his visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of his efforts to help mediate a solution to the diplomatic row among Arab countries.
UN Secretary-General Antonito Guterres has expressed support for Kuwait’s efforts to de-escalate tensions and promote dialog over the crisis.