Qatar has agreed to buy seven navy ships from Italy at a cost of nearly $6 billion, officials have announced.
The purchase will significantly bolster the country’s maritime forces, and has been in the works for at least a year.
The agreement was finalized during yesterday’s visit to Qatar by Italy’s foreign minister.
It comes as Qatar’s isolation from its Gulf neighbors continues into a third month, with no end in sight.
In a statement, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said:
“We have strong political and economic relations with Italy and important cooperation in defense and security fields along with the continued political consultation between the two countries.”
According to the Associated Press, Al Thani also spoke about the Gulf dispute, which remains at an impasse.
He said, “We are not paying attention to decisions that don’t produce anything new.
“Every day brings something that contradicts the other so Qatar is not going to tire itself staying abreast on what (the quartet) see as solutions to resolving the crisis.”
Qatari officials did not name the companies involved in the new agreement.
But in June 2016, Italy’s state-backed shipbuilder Fincantieri said it had signed a multi-billion dollar deal to build ships for Qatar.
In terms of financial and military heft, this is one of the biggest agreements Qatar has signed in years to boost its naval defense.
Smaller orders include Turkish-made patrol ships and interceptor vessels in 2014, as well as Zodiac attack boats, among others.
Fincantieri says its corvettes are typically 104m long and are operated by a crew of some 105 individuals, although various models have different specifications.
Qatar has been investing in maritime defense capabilities due to its large coastline and massive offshore gas resources.
The waters of the Gulf are heavily patrolled by warships from several nations seeking to keep shipping lanes open and interdict smuggling.