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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Qatar ‘submits formal request’ for F-35 jets: report

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A request to purchase F-35 fighter jets has been submitted by Qatar, a Reuters report alleged.

Qatar has allegedly submitted a formal request to the United States to buy stealth F-35 fighter jets, Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

The request for the jets from American aerospace and weapons manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Co, would mark the first formal step in the legal process of foreign military sale, a source told Reuters.

While Qatar has yet to confirm or deny the reports, the US refused to comment.

“As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress,” said a US State Department spokesman.

Qatar’s request follows an August deal between the US and the UAE in which Washington agreed to consider providing the Gulf state approval to buy F-35s. If the US approves the deal, the UAE would be the first Gulf state to possess the stealth jet.

Israel has stood firmly against such moves and has pointed to decades-old US-Israeli policies that restrict such deals in the Middle East, in a bid to essentially maintain its military advantage in the region.

Read also: Qatar dismisses normalisation claims, says its position remains the same

“A cornerstone of our defense relationship is preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region,” said Mark Esper, US Defense Secretary, as he welcomed Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the Pentagon in September.

While the US has yet to process the deal with the UAE considering its policies with Israel, a letter of agreement might be in place in time for the Gulf country’s National Day, celebrated on December 2, Reuters said.

Agreements would typically take a long time, especially when they involve the MENA region. 

The US has sold the jets to some of its allies, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel.

While some sources claimed that Qatar’s request is associated with upcoming normalisation deals, a source said that there was no sign of such ties.

Qatar has also repeatedly reiterated its position in the Palestinian case by denying all claims of potential normalisation with Israel, saying it refuses to be associated with the Jewish state if it continues its human rights abuses and occupation of Palestine.

US-Qatar relations

Doha and Washington’s relations have maintained strength over recent years despite the ongoing Gulf crisis.

In September, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met in Washington in hopes of moving forward with naming Qatar as a major non-NATO ally.

Qatar is also the host to the largest US military base in the Middle East, and home to 8,000 US service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

Read also: Qatari-US Strategic Dialogue: 2021 to be joint ‘Year of Culture’

Most prominently, the US continued its attempt to end the three-year-long Saudi-led blockade on Qatar, with no visible results yet.

Both states have signed several memorandums last month, declaring 2021 as the Qatar-US Year of Culture.


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