Qatar, Italy ink €5bn deal for seven warships
DOHA: Qatar announced yesterday a five-billion-euro order for seven warships from Italy in the midst of a nearly two-month diplomatic crisis with neighboring Saudi Arabia and its allies. “We have signed a contract on behalf of the Qatari navy to acquire seven warships from Italy for five billion euros ($5.9 billion),” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at a Doha press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano.
It follows the signing of a preliminary contract in June 2016 for the deal between the Italian group Fincantieri and Qatar for four corvettes, an amphibious vessel and two patrol boats. Alfano in a tweet welcomed the deal, which he said would create 1,000 jobs in Italy. In June this year, the United States agreed a $12-billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar, re-affirming support for the emirate in the throes of the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the Gulf in decades.
Saudi Arabia and its allies including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of backing extremist groups and being too close to Riyadh’s archrival Iran. Qatar denies the allegations and accuses the Saudi-led bloc of imposing a “siege” on the tiny emirate.
The Qatari minister said yesterday that the four Arab states had “showed no intention to resolve the crisis peacefully” at their last meeting on Sunday in Bahrain. “We are not paying attention to decisions that don’t produce anything new,” he said. “Every day brings something that contradicts the other so Qatar is not going to tire itself staying abreast on what (the quartet) see as solutions to resolving the crisis.”
Alfano called for a de-escalation and a solution that shows “respect for international law”. The Saudi-led bloc has demanded that Qatar close regional news giant AlJazeera and a Turkish military base, and downgrade its ties with Iran. Doha has dismissed the demands as a violation of its sovereignty.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has asked two officials, including retired general and former Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni, to work to end the Gulf diplomatic crisis. Qatar, home to a huge US air base, has denied all accusations, but has agreed to Kuwait acting as a mediator and has come to an agreement with Washington to fight terror financing. The parties to the dispute are still not in direct talks, however, and Washington is keen to pressure its allies in the region to mend ties and work together against extremism.
Tillerson told reporters that Qatar is so far fulfilling its commitment to the United States, but that he had sent senior US diplomat Tim Lenderking to the region to push for progress. “And I’ve also asked retired General Anthony Zinni to go with Tim so that we can maintain a constant pressure on the ground because I think that’s what it’s going to take,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do with telephone persuasion.” Zinni, now 73, was a Marine general who once commanded US forces in the Middle East. After the military he served as special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. — Agencies
DOHA: Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano (left) shakes hands with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani yesterday after signing a deal.