June 19, 2017 3:36 pm

U.S. Navy holds joint naval drills with Qatar despite recent diplomatic tensions

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Two U.S. Navy ships conducted military exercises with their Qatari counterparts in the Persian Gulf on Friday.

Qatar denies accusations by its neighbours that it funds terrorism, foments regional instability or has cosied up to their enemy Iran. The dispute has opened a rift among some of the main U.S. allies in the Middle East, with U.S. President Donald Trump backing tough measures against Qatar even as his State Department and Defense Department have sought to remain neutral.

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Washington has sent mixed signals despite Trump’s firm personal backing for the sanctions: Trump called Qatar a “funder of terrorism at a very high level,” but five days later his Pentagon approved selling Qatar billions of dollars wirth of warplanes.

READ MORE: Qatar hires ex-US attorney general John Ashcroft to fight terrorist financing claims

The U.S. warships arrived at Qatar’s Hamad Port on Wednesday as part of defence co-operation between the United States and Qatar.

The joint exercise will cover areas such as surface and aerial combat as well as defending an oil platform, according to Qatari and U.S. Navies Joint Exercise Commander, Staff Commander Mohamed Desaml Al Kuwari.

The move came as Qatar’s Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday the country signed off on a deal to buy F-15 fighter jets from the United States for $12 billion.

© 2017 Reuters

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