Qatar and Italy signed Wednesday a military deal for the purchase of seven war vessels worth $6 billion.
“I am pleased to announce the conclusion of a deal between the Qatari naval forces to buy seven naval units from Italy in the context of the joint military cooperation between the two countries,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani following the signing of the agreement in Doha.
The deal is estimated at $5.9bn, the Qatari official said at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano in Doha.
The two men also discussed efforts to end the rift between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, plus Egypt. The quartet severed ties with Qatar accusing it of funding terrorism.
The deal underlines the close ties existing between the tiny Emirate and Italy whose state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri last year indicated that it would supply Qatar with “four corvette warships, two support vessels and an amphibious landing platform dock, along with support services in Qatar for 15 years after delivery”.
All the ships will be built in Italian shipyards, with construction starting in 2018, it said.
Italian defense company Leonardo will supply electronics and weapons systems for the ships and receive around a third of the value of the deal, Fincantieri reportedly said.
Qatar’s navy is inferior to navy capabilities of regional powers, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Wednesday deal will equip the tiny gulf country with latest warships that are however still insufficient to withstand Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bahrain.
Currently, Qatar’s navy is made up of 20-year-old patrol vessels, London-based Middle East Eye reports.