US approves $23.37 bln sale of advanced defense equipment, F-35 jets to UAE: Pompeo

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The US has approved the sale of a $23.37 billion package of advanced defense equipment to the UAE aimed at deterring potential threats from Iran, while maintaining Israel's military edge, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

The package includes up to 50 F-35 Lighting II fighter jets, valued at $10.4 billion, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems (advanced armed drone systems), valued at $2.97 billion and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, valued at $10 billion.

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"The United Arab Emirates is a longtime vital US security partner. Today, I directed the Department to formally notify Congress of our intent to authorize the UAE’s proposed purchase of several advanced capabilities that are worth $23.37 billion," Pompeo said in a statement.

"This is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran," he added.

The US top diplomat said the UAE's agreement to normalize relations with with Israel offered a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region's strategic landscape."

Israeli officials have previously expressed some concern about an F-35 sale because it could affect the balance of military power in the region. But Pompeo said the sale is “fully consistent” with the longstanding policy of maintaining Israel’s qualitive military advantage.

"Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success. The proposed sale will make the UAE even more capable and interoperable with US partners in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge," he said.

"The UAE's historic agreement to normalize relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region's strategic landscape," he added.

"Security cooperation and defense trade are powerful tools of American diplomacy. Today’s announcement echoes the enhanced defense cooperation we embarked upon with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Camp David Accords, as well as our closer security relationship with Jordan following its normalization of ties with Israel in 1994. Together, we are committed to securing the success of the Abraham Accords."

After agreeing to normalize relations with Israel in August, UAE officials had said purchasing the F-35s was among their main goals. At the time Israeli officials denied they had agreed to the sale but later dropped public objections to it.

- With AP

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