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UAE suspends talks on F-35 deal with US; State Dept hopes solve ‘outstanding issues’

A US Defense Department official said that senior UAE officials had a visit scheduled to the Pentagon later this week.

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The US is hopeful that it can work out any “outstanding issues” with the UAE over a $23 billion arms deal, a State Department official said Tuesday, after an Emirati official said his country was suspending talks on the sale of F-35 fighter jets.

“As we recently confirmed at the Dubai Air Show, the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to the proposed sales of F-35 aircraft, the MQ-9B, and munitions even as we continue consultations to ensure that we have a clear, mutual understanding of Emirati obligations and actions before, during, and after delivery,” the official told Al Arabiya English.

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Initially struck under the Trump administration, the UAE had requested to buy the US fighter jet and other weapons, including armed drones, as part of the Abraham Accords deal, which saw the Emirates normalize ties with Israel.

But the Biden administration’s decision to review all foreign arms sales, including this deal, led to increased skepticism.

While visiting the Dubai Air Show last month, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Security Mira Resnick said the US intended to move forward with the proposed defense sales.

Mira Resnick, a US deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security in the bureau of political-military affairs, at the Dubai Air Show, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP)
Mira Resnick, a US deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security in the bureau of political-military affairs, at the Dubai Air Show, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP)

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal first reported that an Emirati official informed Washington of the suspension of talks over the deal. “Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and the cost/benefit analysis led to the reassessment,” the official was quoted as saying in a statement.

Asked to comment on the UAE’s new stance, the State Department official told Al Arabiya English: “We are hopeful that we can work through any outstanding issues, and we look forward to the US-UAE Joint Military Dialogue later this week.”

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland was in the UAE last week to discuss “and advance key regional security and economic issues,” the State Department said before her trip.

Commenting on the UAE’s decision, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that Washington would try to work out the differences.

Kirby said that senior UAE officials had a visit scheduled to the Pentagon later this week.

“We will always insist, as a matter of statutory requirements and policy, on a variety of end use requirements,” Kirby said, directing questions to the State Department.

The UAE’s use of China’s Huawei 5G technology and its warm relationship with China has irked the US, American officials have said publicly and privately.

And Chinese construction at UAE naval ports also raised questions from Washington about Beijing’s military ambitions at the site.

A diplomatic advisor to the UAE President, Anwar Gargash, said last week that the UAE ordered the halting of construction at a port near Abu Dhabi. He said the UAE did not think the construction was being carried out for military purposes by China.

Read more: US intel warns China could dominate advanced technologies

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