Qatar is expected to sign a letter of agreement with Italy on Thursday for the planned purchase of four corvettes, a support vessel and two missile boats from Italian shipyard Fincantieri.

The deal would be worth almost €5 billion, or $5.6 billion, a source knowledgeable of the deal told Defense News, and include missiles supplied by MBDA as well as naval guns, radars and electronics supplied by Italy's Leonardo-Finmeccanica.

The agreement follows keen attempts by France to head off the deal and convince Qatar to purchase French FREMM frigates instead of the Italian vessels.

The signing for the 50-meters-long corvettes, missile boats and the support ship is expected to take place in Rome between the defense ministers of Italy and Qatar.

The four corvettes and the support ship would cost 3.9 billion euros and the two missile boats one billion euros, the source said.

Italian defense minister Roberta Pinotti was on the verge of signing the agreement in March at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) in Qatar, only for the ceremony to be postponed after France lobbied Doha to consider buying FREMM frigates instead.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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