Qatar has signed a security pact with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), enabling forces with the military alliance to enter and transit the Persian Gulf state and use its al-Ubeid Air Base there.
The agreement was signed at the presence of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday.
The two sides discussed the security situation in the Persian Gulf region, which has been hit by an unprecedented diplomatic crisis involving Qatar and a Saudi-led quartet of states.
The deal is expected to facilitate NATO missions and operations in the region, including the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, a follow-on mission for the US-led forces who formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.
Al-Ubeid Air Base, located around 30 kilometers southwest of Doha, hosts some 11,000 military forces, mostly Americans.
Qatar is one of four countries – along with Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – participating in NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).
The four ICI partner countries have now signed individual security agreements with the Western military alliance.
Launched in 2004, the ICI aims to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering countries of the broader Middle East region practical bilateral security cooperation with NATO.
The agreement comes amid a diplomatic rift revolving around Qatar and certain Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar on June 5, officially accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region -- charges which Qatar strongly denies.
The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences.
Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and denounced them as unreasonable.
Also on Wednesday, Qatari emir met with the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who signed a cooperation arrangement on private sector development, research and innovation with Qatar’s Foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.
According to an EU statement, the Qatari foreign minister and EU officials discussed the “ongoing situation within the Gulf Cooperation Council and prospects for a resolution of the crisis.”
Qatari emir also held talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday.
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