Qatar Airways' acquisition of a stake in China Southern Airlines follows a warming of relations between Beijing and Doha, which is being ostracized by its Gulf neighbors. Photo: Wikipedia

Qatar Airways announced on Wednesday that it had acquired a 5% stake in China Southern Airlines, a move it hopes will help it establish itself in the East Asian aviation market.

The state-owned airline said in a statement that the deal was part of its “strategy to invest in the strongest airlines around the world,” but it did not disclose how much it paid for the stake.

China Southern Airlines is one of China’s “big three” carriers.

Qatar Airways also owns a 20% stake in International Airlines Group – which holds British Airways under its umbrella – as well as shares in LATAM Airlines Group, Italy’s Meridiana and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific.

The latest deal comes as Qatar seeks new partners and routes for the national airline due to an ongoing diplomatic dispute in the Gulf.

Since June 2017, Qatar has been politically and economically isolated regionally by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

These oil-rich Gulf peers continue to impose a blockade, after accusing Doha of supporting “terrorists” and being too close to Saudi Arabia’s Shiite archrival Iran – charges Qatar vehently denies.

The aviation deal follows a warming of relations between Doha and Beijing.

Qatari officials said in November that China is now Doha’s third-largest trade partner, as bilateral exports and imports totalled more than $10 billion in 2017.

Qatar chose China Railway Construction Corporation to help build the $45 billion Lusail Stadium, an 80,000-seat arena that is meant to host the opening and final games of the 2022 World Cup finals.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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