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Qatar says Russian air defence system purchase 'none of Saudi Arabia's business'

Foreign minister tells Riyadh not to meddle in its potential arms sales from Moscow as Russian counterpart visits Doha
Saudi Arabia's King Salman has threatened military action if Qatar goes ahead with the purchase of the S-400 (AFP)

Qatar has told Saudi Arabia not to meddle in its potential arms purchases from Russia, as the Gulf state weighs the controversial purchase of an air defence system.

"Regarding the arms sales that Qatar has with Russia... we believe that Saudi Arabia, or any other countries, it is none of their business," Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said at a news conference in Doha with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. 

"It's a sovereign decision that should be taken by the state of Qatar," said Sheikh Mohammed when asked about a possible purchase of the S-400, a sophisticated Russian-made anti-aircraft weapon system.

He said talks on the purchase were ongoing, while Lavrov also confirmed that talks on "bilateral" military cooperation with gas-rich Qatar were taking place. 

"When we receive bids from our Qatari colleagues for deliveries of Russian military goods, we of course will consider them," Lavrov said.

Lavrov, in Doha on the first stop of a Gulf tour expected to include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had accepted an invitation by Qatar's emir to visit Doha, but they had not yet worked out a date.

Syria discussed

The possible arms deal first surfaced last year, sparking a backlash by Saudi Arabia, which along with the UAE and their allies cut all ties with Doha in 2017 over allegations of support for terrorist groups.

Qatar denies the allegations and says its rivals want regime change in Doha.

Saudi King Salman last year expressed Riyadh's concern over the potential deal to buy S-400s in a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, threatening military action if Qatar went ahead with the purchase.

Sheikh Mohammed said the discussions with Lavrov also covered Syria and Libya.

He reiterated that Doha was not yet ready to normalise ties with Syria, saying the war-damaged country must have a political solution and leadership that is representative of its people.