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Qatar, US sign 'billions worth' of business deals

President Trump met with Emir Tamim bin Hamad on Tuesday evening [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2019

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Qatar and the United States have signed billions-worth of commercial agreements on Wednesday, despite a land, air and sea blockade of the Gulf state.

Qatar and the United States signed commercial contracts worth an alleged $85 billion, sources claimed, during the visit of the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Washington.

The deals signed by US President Donald Trump and Qatar's royal included a number of commercial agreements, including the purchase by Qatar Airways of five Boeing 777 Freighters and a large-cabin aircraft from Gulfstream.

The White House also said Qatar's Defence Ministry will buy a missile defence system from Raytheon. In addition, Chevron Phillips Chemical and Qatar Petroleum have agreed to jointly develop a $8 billion petrochemical plant on the US Gulf Coast.

The price tags on the other deals are yet to be disclosed, but those familiar with the transactions said they totalled tens of billions of dollars.

Trump gave a warm White House welcome on Tuesday to the Emir of Qatar amid a continuing rift between the Gulf nation and fellow American allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE, which imposed a land, air and sea blockade of Qatar two years ago. 

Trump clasped hands with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during the visit, calling the Qatari royal a friend.

"They are investing very heavily in our country," he said. "They're creating lots of jobs. They're buying tremendous amounts of military equipment, including planes," Trump said.

Sheikh Tamim reiterated the comment, noting Qatar has "a lot of investments in the US." 

"We trust the economy here. We do a lot on infrastructure and we're planning to do more investment," Tamim said.

Continued tensions

But the emir's visit comes during a tense time for Trump as he weights up critical decisions in the Middle East.

Four Arab nations that are friendly with the United States - Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have boycotted Qatar since 2017, claiming it supports extremist groups in the region. 

The Quartet imposed an almost impossible list for Qatar, among which demands the closure of the Al-Jazeera and The New Arab.

Qatar has strongly denied the accusations, saying they were based on false news broadcast from the state-run Qatar News Agency after it fell victim to a hacking attack.

The blockading nations have stopped Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closed off the small country's sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocked its ships from using their ports.

Qatar, which has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes due to its natural resources, has been largely unaffected by the blockade, opening up other avenues of income to offset the blockade’s impact.

Meanwhile, at a Monday night dinner for the Qatari delegation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praised the emir for his help in combatting terrorist financing.

Iran is expected to be one of the main topics of discussion on Wednesday when Emir Tamim bin Hamad meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iran has begun enriching uranium in excess of limits set by a 2015 nuclear deal in response to new US sanctions. The deal has been unraveling since Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018.

Qatar is home to the forward headquarters of the US military's Central Command. The sprawling Al Udeid Air Base is home to some 10,000 American troops.

Last month, nearly a dozen Air Force F-22 stealth fighters were deployed there in response to intelligence reports of heightened Iranian threats against American forces in the region.

The F-22 Raptors were sent to the base, which is a hub for US air operations in the Middle East.

"They built one of the great military bases I would say anywhere in the world," Trump said. "It's just been expanded with runways and everything else."

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