Qatar says still studying Russian defense system

FILE PHOTO: Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar said on Monday it was still studying the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system, adding the potential deal — reportedly opposed by Saudi Arabia — was none of Riyadh’s business.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani also said there was no sign of a thaw in a Gulf row over allegations by Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states that Qatar supports terrorism. Doha denies the charges.

“There is a discussion for procurement of various Russian equipment but there is no understanding as of yet as to this particular equipment (S-400),” Sheikh Mohammed told a joint news conference with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“With regards to Saudi or other countries it is none of their business, it’s a sovereign decision by Qatar,” he said, adding that a technical committee was studying the best options for the tiny but wealthy country’s military.

The minister was responding to a question about a report last June by France’s Le Monde daily that Saudi King Salman had sent a letter to France’s president expressing concern over talks between Doha and Moscow about the S-400 systems.

Sheikh Mohammed said discussions with Lavrov, who is in Doha on the first stop of a Gulf tour, also covered Syria and Libya.

He reiterated that Doha was not yet ready to normalize ties with Syria, saying the war-damaged country must have a political solution and leadership elected by its people. He also called for unity in Libya.

Reporting by Eric Knecht in Doha and Asma Alsharif in Dubia; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean

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