(Reuters) – Qatar is in talks with Moscow to buy Russian S-400 missile air defense systems, Tass state news agency quoted the Qatari ambassador to Russia on Thursday as saying.
Qatar is engaged in a deepening diplomatic row with some of its Gulf Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), over allegations it supports terrorism, a charge Doha denies.
Since the crisis began last June, Russia has been more active in the region and has sold its missile defense system to other regional powers, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
“The answer to this question is yes,” Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said in an interview with Tass, when asked if Qatar was planning to buy the S-400 systems. “Talks about the subject are at an advanced stage.”
He said an agreement on military and technical cooperation between the two countries, signed in October, had opened the door for further cooperation between Russia and Qatar in the defense field.
This cooperation includes “supplies of military hardware, military training of officers and soldiers, equipment and, indeed, cooperation on the level of special services.”
Attiyah added that the two countries would have military attaches posted in embassies.
Qatar and Russia signed a military technical cooperation agreement and memorandum of understanding on air defense and military supplies in October, when Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the Gulf state.
Last June Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar and imposed travel and economic sanctions on the Gulf Arab state, accusing it of “supporting terrorism” and cosying up to Iran.
Doha has said the four countries are trying to force it to alter its policies to be in line with their own.
Saudis not amused
In letter to French leader, King Salman warns of ‘all necessary measures’ if Doha buys defence system, Le Monde reports.
In a letter addressed to President Emmanuel Macron of France, Saudi King Salman expressed his “profound concern” with talks under way between Moscow and Doha for the sale of the advanced anti-aircraft weapon system.
The Saudi monarch, who asked that France increase its pressure on Qatar, said he was worried about the consequences of Doha’s acquisition of the mobile surface-to-air missile system which he said threatened Saudi security interests.
“[In such a situation], the Kingdom would be ready to take all the necessary measures to eliminate this defence system, including military action,” King Salman was quoted as saying in the letter, whose content Le Monde obtained via a source close to Elysee Palace.