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Qatar arms deal slammed amid concerns over human rights, regional rift

A member of staff works in the cockpit of an aircraft on the Eurofighter Typhoon production line at BAE systems Warton plant near Preston, northern England September 7, 2012. (Reuters)
LONDON: A major UK-based anti-arms-trade group has criticized the sale of 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar, telling Arab News that Britain must “make sure weapons are not being sold to human-rights-abusing regimes.”

The outcry follows the announcement on Sunday that British company BAE Systems has agreed a $6.7 billion deal with the Gulf nation of Qatar to supply two dozen Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

According to Reuters, the jets are due to be delivered from late 2022, with the deal strongly supported by the British government as it secures around 5,000 manufacturing jobs in England.

Reacting to the news, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson Andrew Smith told Arab News: “The Qatari regime has an appalling human rights record. There is a tense political situation in the region, and these arms sales will not make it any safer. They are characteristic of the huge levels of political and military support that the UK government is prepared to offer to human rights abusers and dictatorships.”

The CAAT is of course committed to halting the sale of all arms, with Smith explaining, “We do not support arms sales to anyone, but the immediate priority has to be to make sure weapons are not being sold to human rights abusing regimes, or into war zones. The overwhelming majority of UK arms are sold to dictatorships and human rights abusers.”

The latest sale of 24 Typhoon jets to the Qatar Emiri Air Force takes the total number sold worldwide to 623, which includes 28 to Kuwait, 72 to Saudi Arabia, 143 being used by Germany, and 160 in use by the UK. Qatar is the ninth country to buy the Eurofighter Typhoon warplane.

In a statement on the Qatari deal, BAE Systems Chief Executive Charles Woodburn said: “We are delighted to begin a new chapter in the development of a long-term relationship with the State of Qatar and the Qatar Armed Forces, and we look forward to working alongside our customer as they continue to develop their military capability.”

The move follows a string of arms deals signed between Qatar and French entities last week, including 12 Rafale fighter jets.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh criticized that move.

“France should be cognizant of the fact that such a deal would only ratchet up radicalism, violence and militarization of conflicts in the region,” he told Arab News.

“Qatar is funding, arming, and training extremist groups and militias across the region. As Qatar and its ally the Iranian regime are top states sponsor of terrorism, France deal and its rapprochement with Qatar will only empower and embolden terrorist groups in the region. In addition, weapons and military equipments sold to Qatar can easily fall in the hands of terrorist groups.”

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