By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
The defence relationship between Qatar and the UK is very strong and goes beyond selling fighter jets, the UK ambassador Ajay Sharma has said.
Speaking at a discussion with journalists at the British embassy in Doha yesterday, the new British envoy to Qatar noted that whether the country will buy a ‘Typhoon’ or not is not a test of this relationship.
“One of the key messages that I want people to understand is that our defence relationship with Qatar is wide ranging and deep and we want to see it wider and deeper,” he stressed.
Citing ongoing discussions with Qatari authorities, Sharma hopes that Qatar will consider purchasing what he described as the right aircraft for the country.
Typhoon is known as one of the most advanced fighter jets available in the market with its ‘unrivalled’ combat features.
Its flight control system enables the pilot to fly aggressively to outmanoeuvre enemy planes under all combat conditions, according to BAE Systems.
Sharma believes that the Qatar government will take a decision soon, having seen the advantages of acquiring a fighter jet like Typhoon “in the context of the recent kind of conflict in Yemen.”
“We are continuing our discussions but our relationship is not just about selling Typhoon,” he added. “The defence relationship is much stronger than that.”
“We have always been keen to promote our defence industry, there is no change in that and I think what is great about Typhoon is that it is not just only about British, it is actually a European project,” he noted.
Qatar and the UK had worked closely in this particular field during the Libyan crisis, according to the envoy.
He said the UK is also interested to be involved in more military training with Qatar which forms part of the defence relationship.
Qatar and the UK are also keen to boost its bilateral relations in different fields such as trade and investment, education, culture, and health, among others.
Trade volume between the two countries is around £5bn while the value of Qatari goods imported into the UK in 2014 reached £3.5bn.
“We regard Qatar as a good and reliable supplier of gas to the UK and that is something that has worked well,” said Sharma, noting that the UK gets involved in Qatar in some parts of that construction industry.
According to the envoy, UK is particularly strong in areas such as design where some of its famous British architects and designers have been involved in a number of FIFA 2022 World Cup projects. From £353mn in 2005, UK exports to Qatar had increased to £1.67bn by 2014.
“We are into infrastructure and World Cup-related, all 2030-related in terms of rail, the port that is being developed, these are areas we are interested,” he said.
The envoy also sees a lot of opportunities in the oil and gas sector, as well as in luxury goods, for the two countries.
About high-level meetings, he expects more state and ministerial visits to continue in the near future.
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