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Russia, Qatar ink military deal amid growing regional arms race

Russia and Qatar have signed an intergovernmental agreement on military and technical cooperation, as Persian Gulf Arab states are turning to Moscow as a new arms supplier amid escalation of regional tensions.

The agreement was signed between the representatives of Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the Qatari Defense Ministry in Doha on Wednesday, at the presence of Russian Defense Minister General Sergey Shoigu and his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, TASS reported.

According to Russia’s Sputnik news agency, the package agreement includes a $500-million deal for S-400 anti-aircraft system as well as the sale of Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system, light armored vehicles, tank defense systems and mortar.

Once an exclusive market for the US and West European arms exports, Persian Gulf Arab states have recently turned their eyes to Russia for military hardware.

The arms rivalry in the Persian Gulf takes place as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt have waged a diplomatic and economic war on Qatar since June, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism.” Qatar rejects the allegation and blames the Saudi-led countries for the crisis, saying they harbor ulterior motives for the showdown.

Meanwhile, Bahrain, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet, is also close to purchasing Russia’s latest anti-aircraft system the S-400, according to Russian media reports.

“We are currently in the stage of negotiations, but with God’s help we will finish this process,” Russia’s Sputnik news outlet quoted Commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guards Nasser bin Hamad Ale Khalifa as saying on October 16.

“Bahrain and Russia have established broad cooperation in the military sector. Meetings are being held, negotiations are taking place, relations have also been established between the leadership of two countries,” he added.

Earlier in October, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced a major deal for the S-400 surface-to-air missiles during a visit by Saudi King Salman to Moscow.

Egypt and Qatar are also reportedly seeking to purchase Russia’s S-400.

The rush for arms deals with Russia comes as the Arab states have already signed multi-billion dollar military agreements with the US at the height of a deadly Saudi-led campaign against Yemen.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia in early June, US President Donald Trump signed the largest single arms deal in US history with King Salman to sell Riyadh $110 billion in arms.

The US also signed a $12-billion deal to sell F-15 fighter jets to Qatar in mid-June and concluded a $3.8-billion deal to sell 16 upgraded F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain in October.

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