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A NEW military agreement between the British government and Qatar shows a “flagrant disregard for human rights,” anti-arms campaigners said yesterday.
The agreement, signed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and his Qatari counterpart on Wednesday, will allow the Gulf state to use a British military air base.
It comes after Qatar purchased nine Hawk jets from BAE systems, Britain’s largest arms firm.
Mr Wallace touted the deal as “an exciting new chapter in the longstanding defence relationship between Britain and Qatar,” that builds “upon the success of our joint Typhoon squadron.”
But anti-arms campaigners said the strengthening of ties between the two countries would “fuel repression” in the dictatorial Gulf state.
Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The Qatari authorities have a long and shameful record of repression and abuse.
“This deal shows a flagrant disregard for human rights and will integrate British and Qatari foreign policy.
“This can only serve to fuel repression by strengthening the political and military links between Downing Street and the Qatari royal family.”
Qatari laws discriminate against migrants, women and LGBT people. The country is listed as “not free” by Freedom House, which assesses nations based on rights to freedom of expression.
Human-rights groups have also highlighted Qatar’s early involvement in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.
The five-year war, and the humanitarian crisis it caused, is estimated to have killed more than 233,000 people.
Stop the War Coalition co-convenor Lindsey German said: “The establishment of a joint squadron and use of a British air base is the latest in the squalid relationship between the British governtment and its Qatari counterpart.
“Qatar has a record of human-rights abuses and repression, and was involved in the early stages of the Yemen war. Yet Britain has no qualms in supplying arms to this regime and working in close military cooperation.
“Everyone who opposes oppression should oppose this deal. Britain has to stop its arms sales, which involve dealing with dictators and autocrats around the world.”
The deal comes after Qatar and Britain recently launched a joint squadron of Typhoon fighter jets, based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
The British government has also licenced at least £540 million worth of arms sales to the Gulf state since 2015.
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