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Qatar and France sign deal for greater economic, energy and security cooperation

Bilateral agreement seen as a boost for Qatar, which faces ongoing blockade by neighbouring Saudi Arabia and its allies
Qatar's foreign minister signed deal alongside his French counterpart in Doha on Monday (AFP)

Qatar and France have signed a "strategic dialogue" agreement to cooperate on economic, energy and security matters, in what is seen as a boost for the small Gulf peninsula amid an ongoing diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Doha on Monday to sign the deal, which Al Thani said marks a "new phase" for the two countries.

"This platform will include cooperation in different areas ... including defence security, regional security as well as energy, economy and culture," he said during a news conference. 

Le Drian, for his part, said the deal "obliges" Paris and Doha to have regular meetings.

Last week, Qatar received a delivery of the first of 36 French-built Rafale fighter jets.

Since June 2017, the tiny Gulf state has been spending heavily to revamp its defence capabilities.

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That's when Saudi Arabia launched an air, sea and land blockade of Qatar, in cooperation with its allies - the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

The countries accused Doha of supporting terrorism and seeking closer ties to Saudi Arabia's rival, Iran; the Qatari government has repeatedly denied those claims.

Monday's agreement isn't the first time Qatar and France have sought to strengthen bilateral ties.

Qatari investments in France "have grown substantially", a former World Trade Organization director-general told the Gulf Times newspaper in January 2018.

Pascal Lamy, France’s delegate for the 2025 Expo bid, told the news outlet that Qatari investments in France have increased in the technology, real estate, distribution and sport sectors, among others.

Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar Businessmen Association, said in November that Qatari investments in France have reached about 30bn Euros (about $34bn), according to Qatari newspaper The Peninsula.

Qatar owns famed French football team Paris Saint-Germain and next month will usher in the opening of a multi-million-dollar national museum in Doha that was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, AFP reported.