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France agrees 'strategic' pact with Qatar

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Qatar's top diplomat Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Doha to sign the "strategic dialogue" agreement.

[DOHA] Qatar and France signed a deal Monday to cooperate on security and economic matters, in a boost to the tiny Gulf state still locked in a diplomatic rift with neighbouring Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Qatar's top diplomat Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Doha to sign the "strategic dialogue" agreement.

The deal marked a "new phase" for the two countries, Mr Al-Thani said during a press conference.

"This platform will include cooperation in different areas between the two countries, including defence security, regional security as well as energy, economy and culture," he added.

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Le Drian said the agreement "obliges" Paris and Doha to have regular meetings.

Qatar last week took delivery of the first of 36 French-built Rafale fighter jets.

The energy-rich Gulf state has been spending heavily on defence since June 2017 when a group of former allies - including regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - cut ties with Doha and enforced a political and economic boycott.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and seeking better ties with Iran, Riyadh's regional arch-rival.

Doha denies the charges and says the Saudi-led bloc wants regime change.

Qatar owns famed French football champions Paris Saint-Germain and next month will see the opening of Doha's multi-million dollar national museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

AFP