Qatar Airways says it is buying a nearly 10 percent stake in International Consolidated Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways and Spain's Iberia.

The government-backed Gulf carrier said on Friday that the decision to buy 9.99 percent of the company, known as IAG, was part of an effort to enhance its operation and strengthen existing commercial ties with the European company.

It says it may consider increasing its stake further down the road. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Qatar Airways has expanded rapidly in recent years as it and rivals in the nearby United Arab Emirates increasingly drive long-haul international travelers through their fast-growing Gulf hubs.

It is backed by the government of Qatar, a small oil and natural gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 World Cup.