DOHA, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Qatari and Italian naval forces started a joint exercise on Saturday in Qatar's territorial waters, state-run Qatari news agency (QNA) reported Sunday.
Qatar's missile boat Al Debal and Italy's frigate Carlo Margottini participated in the drills, QNA said.
The joint exercise was conducted as part of the ongoing Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) in the capital.
"The methodology of exercises and training among the forces evolves as strong relations between the two friendly countries develop," said Brig. Gen. Mubarak Rashid Al Sulaiti, commander of the Naval Operations Center Marine.
The exercise focuses on the maneuver and defense of a ship in the event of an external attack, as well as the exchange of experience in maximizing benefits and training officers and personnel.
On March 16, Qatari Armed Forces with Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo signed deals on purchasing 28 NH90 helicopters and automatic simulators of these helicopters.
Last August, Qatar signed a 5-billion-euro (5.9 billion U.S. dollars) deal to purchase seven naval vessels from Italy.
Last June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic, trade and transport links to gas-rich Qatar, accusing the gas-rich Gulf state of supporting terrorism and establishing close ties with Iran against Arab interests, which Doha has repeatedly denied.