Qatar, Italy ink €5bn deal for seven war­ships

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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

— AP

DOHA: Ital­ian For­eign Min­is­ter An­gelino Al­fano (left) shakes hands with Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al-Thani yes­ter­day af­ter sign­ing a deal.

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