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Qatar signs off on $8bn deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Biggest order for Typhoons in decade follows deal signed by Qatar last week to buy 12 French Dassault Aviation warplanes
British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet (AFP)

Qatar signed a multi-billion-dollar deal on Sunday to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from Britain, its second major defence agreement this week, which comes during the worst regional political crisis in years.

The $8bn deal was completed in Doha by Qatar's Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson. A memorandum of understanding was signed by the two countries for this Typhoon contract in September.

Williamson said it was the biggest order for Typhoons in a decade, and it follows a billion-dollar deal signed by Qatar on 7 December to buy 12 French Dassault Aviation warplanes.

For Britain, the deal is notable as it searches for major global contracts during negotiations for its withdrawal from the European Union.

"These formidable jets will boost the Qatari military's mission to tackle the challenges we both share in the Middle East, supporting stability in the region and delivering security at home," said the British minister.

The deal also includes an intention for Qatar to buy further military equipment from Britain, including the purchase of Hawk aircraft.

The deal is a major victory for BAE Systems, which produces the jets. It took less than 14 years for the firm and its European partners to deliver the first 500 Typhoon jets, but orders have dwindled in recent years and the production rate at the firm's factory in Preston, England, has reportedly slowed.

UK jobs amid Brexit

The Typhoon fighter programme has supported an estimated 8,600 jobs in the UK, with an estimated further 1,500 jobs dependent on export opportunities, according to BAE Systems.

Still, human rights groups are likely to be dismayed by the move, which comes as the UK's $16bn defence industry is facing intense scrutiny over exports to Saudi Arabia and other states accused of major human rights violations.

Sunday's deal comes at a politically sensitive time for both countries. 

There are heightened tensions in the Gulf, where a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar is in its seventh month.

Since 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have diplomatically isolated Qatar, accusing the emirate of supporting Islamist extremists and of being too close to Shia Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival.

The four countries also cut off all air and sea links to Qatar.

Qatar denies the allegations and has accused the Saudi-led bloc of aiming to incite regime change in Doha.

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