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Qatar to train air force in Turkey under new deal

The military training agreement between Doha and Ankara will allow Qatari pilots to gain experience in Turkish airspace
A picture released by the Qatar News Agency on 6 June 2019 shows Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, right, attending a reception ceremony for the Qatari airforce (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Qatar will be able to temporarily deploy 36 fighter jets and 250 military personnel to Turkey for training purposes, according to a technical deal introduced to the Turkish parliament last month.

Turkish military chief General Yasar Guler signed the deal with his Qatari counterpart last March, according to the official document, which allows Doha to receive aerial training in Turkey for the next five years with the possibility of a one-year extension.

The parliament needs to sign the deal into law, which is almost certain to happen in the coming weeks because of the government's overwhelming majority in the assembly.

In the document, Ankara explained that the deal was a way to increase military cooperation between the two allied countries.

“The deal aims to contribute to Qatari military pilots’ experience and training by allowing them to temporarily use Turkish airspace and ports,” the government said.

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The agreement mandates that Qatar inform Ankara 60 days ahead of its deployment to Turkey, and requires the presence of a Turkish pilot as an observer in their training.

In recent years, Turkey and Qatar have forged a regional alliance extending from Libya to Syria. Ankara effectively prevented a 2017 palace coup in Doha instigated by Saudi Arabia's leadership by opening a Turkish military base and deploying soldiers there. Qatar meanwhile owns shares in Turkish defence companies and has investments in Turkey ranging from entertainment to real estate worth billions of dollars.

It isn’t the first time that an allied country has received military training in Turkey. Israel benefitted from air force training in Konya from the 1990s until the mid-2000s, when the relationship between the countries soured.

The training at the time enabled Israelis to gain experience flying long-range missions over mountainous areas. Such training is seen as mutually benefitial, with each side familiarising itself with the others' procedures and hardware. 

In this case, a Greek news site has claimed that Turkey decided to host the Qataris in order to inspect the latter's French-made Rafale jets, which Turkey doesn’t have at its disposal. Greece ordered 18 Rafale jets from France in a bid to establish air superiority against Ankara earlier this year.

Turkey’s annual Anatolian Eagle air exercises are famous for their scope and length. This year, nearly 20 countries and organisations will be attending the air drills, including Qatar, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Nato.

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