June 14, 2017, 11:30 AM PDT June 14, 2017, 1:47 PM PDT
- Contract comes as Qatar seeks easing of Saudi-led embargo
- Decision is latest in string of mixed messages from the U.S.
Qatar will sign a deal to buy as many as 36 F-15 jets from the U.S. as the two countries navigate tensions over President Donald Trump’s backing for a Saudi-led coalition’s move to isolate the country for supporting terrorism.
Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah and his U.S. counterpart, Jim Mattis, completed the $12 billion agreement on Wednesday in Washington, according to the Pentagon.
The sale “will give Qatar a state of the art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
Read Why Tiny Qatar Angers Saudi Arabia and Its Allies
Tillerson has since sought to mediate the dispute from Washington, meeting with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Monday. He was scheduled to meet the foreign minister of the U.A.E. -- another member of the Saudi coalition -- for dinner Wednesday night.
“I would characterize the mood and the approach to that as being one that is hopeful, that believes that the worst is behind us,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday.
While Trump appeared to back Saudi Arabia and Tillerson took a more neutral tone, the Defense Department underscored its relations with Qatar, saying the U.S. was grateful to the country for its support of the U.S. presence there.
“We encourage all our partners in the region to work towards common solutions that enable regional security,” Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said in a statement when the crisis began.
Last year, after the State Department approved the jet sale, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency issued a report saying that the proposed sale “enhances the foreign policy and national security of the United State by helping to improve the security of a friendly country and strengthening our strategically important relationship.”
“Qatar is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region,” the agency said.