Blinken says US ready to move forward with sale of F-35s, drones to UAE

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The United States is prepared to move forward with the sale of F-35 fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, after reports the UAE intended to suspend discussion of the deal.

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A UAE official on Tuesday told Reuters that it had informed the United States that it would suspend discussions to acquire F-35 fighter jets, part of a $23 billion deal that includes drones and other advanced munitions.

The official cited “technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis” as reasons that have prompted a re-assessment of the deal by the UAE government.

The UAE had signed an agreement to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones, people familiar with the situation told Reuters in January.

Speaking at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Blinken said Washington had to conduct some reviews.

“We’ve wanted to make sure, for example, that our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge is assured, so we wanted to make sure that we could do a thorough review of any technologies that are sold or transferred to other partners in the region, including the UAE,” Blinken said.

“But I think we continue to be prepared to move forward if the UAE continues to want to pursue both of these,” he said.

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