French fighter jets arrive in Qatar on blockade anniversary

French fighter jets arrive in Qatar on blockade anniversary
2 min read
05 June, 2019
The Qatari Ministry of Defence said the Gulf state would receive on Wednesday the "first batch of Rafale fighter jets".
Qatar has upped its military spending since the 2017 blockade [Getty]
Qatar received its first batch of Rafale fighter aircraft on Wednesday, as the gulf emirate marks the second anniversary of a land, air and sea blockade.

The Qatari Ministry of Defence announced the news on its official account on Twitter, noting it would receive on Wednesday the "first batch of the Rafale fighter jets, which is headed to the homeland today”.

Videos circulating on social media on Wednesday appeared to show fighter jets above the capital's skyline. 

Qatar ordered 24 of the fighters in 2015, adding 12 more last year. The 1.1-billion-euro ($1.3 billion) order, announced during an official visit by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, allows for an option to buy a further 36 jets.

In 2017, amid an announcement to buy 12 French-built Rafale fighter jets, Qatar Airways announced a 5.5-billion-euro ($6.4 billion) deal to buy 50 Airbus A321 planes, with an option for 36 more.

Read more: Two years on, Qatar has beaten the Saudi-led blockade

The two countries also signed a three-billion-euro ($3.5 billion) deal on the operation and maintenance of the Doha Metro, currently being built as the country prepares for the football World Cup in 2022.

Qatar also signed a letter of intent for the purchase of 490 VBCI armoured vehicles from Nexter, a French-government owned weapons manufacturer, in a potential deal worth 1.5 billion euros, the Elysee said.

The contracts in 2017 were inked in the presence of Macron and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Qatar has upped its defence spending after being diplomatically isolated by its Gulf neighbours in the ongoing blockade, which reached its second year on Wednesday.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia and allied states cut all ties with Qatar, closing its only land border, banning planes from their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from passing through their airports.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, together with Egypt, accuse the gas-rich emirate of supporting Islamist extremists and of being too close to Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival. Qatar denies the allegations.

After cutting off all ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a land, sea and air blockade of the emirate and issued a list of 13 demands to have it lifted. 

The list of demands included shutting down media outlets Al Jazeera and London-based The New Arab, curbing relations with Iran and closing a Turkish military base in the emirate.

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