02:14 GMT26 February 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper has held talks with visiting Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Khalid Al Attiyah about modernizing the Al Udeid Air Base, Department of Defence spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said.

    "The leaders discussed a broad range of defence and security issues, including Qatar's pledge to upgrade and modernize the infrastructure on Al Udeid Air Base", Hoffman said in a readout on Wednesday.

    Esper and Al Attiyah met at the Defence Department on Wednesday to reaffirm the strategic security partnership between the United States and Qatar, Hoffman said.

    "Secretary Esper highlighted the growing impact of Qatari cooperation with US Central Command and gave Khalid thanks for Qatar's continued hospitality in hosting thousands of US forces", the readout said. "Both parties agreed that US presence in the Gulf region provides stability and security".

    Esper also reiterated the United States’ commitment to continued participation with Qatar on several initiatives involving military-to-military exchanges and improvements to interoperability between the military forces of both countries, Hoffman said.

    According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the base, located southwest of Doha, is home to some 13,000 US coalition personnel. Pompeo signed earlier a memorandum of understanding with Qatar to expand US presence at Al Udeid airbase.

    Al Udeid is considered the largest US base in the Middle East. The military base is home to the US Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) and serves as a major communication and operational centre for the coalition fighting against the Daesh terrorist group in the region.

    Last year, the US-based media suggested that Qatar would spend $1.8 billion to upgrade the base.

    *Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, IS, Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.



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