UAE suspends discussions on F35 aircraft deal with US

Dec 14, 2021: The UAE embassy in Washington DC has announced that the UAE is suspending talks on a $23 billion arms deal with the United States, including state-of-the-art F-35 aircraft.

In a statement on Tuesday, the embassy said the UAE would “suspend” talks on the sale, while meetings between the two sides at the Pentagon this weekend would proceed as planned.

According to a statement made by a UAE official to Reuters news agency, talks have been suspended because of “technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis led to the re-assessment” of the agreement.

Former US President Donald Trump’s administration first announced the $23bn arms deal with the Emirati government last year. It is linked to the Abraham Accords, which saw the UAE – as well as Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – agree to normalise relations with Israel.

Attempts to block the deal failed to pass in the US Senate in December, when some lawmakers – including President Joe Biden, leading members of the Democratic Party – expressed concern that weapons could exacerbate regional conflicts. Especially in Yemen, where years of war have wreaked havoc and an ensuing humanitarian crisis.

Despite widespread criticism from rights groups and arms control supporters in the United States, a State Department official said in April that the Biden administration would proceed with the proposed sale to the UAE. The official also said that the administration would “continue to review the details and consult with the Emirati authorities” regarding the use of weapons.

The $23.37bn package contained products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies, including 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US partnership with the UAE was more strategic and complex than a weapons sale and Washington was committed to working with Abu Dhabi to address their questions.

Kirby said meetings between US and Emirati officials this weekend would be on a wide range of topics, but that arms sales were likely to follow. The State Department said in a statement that the Biden administration was “committed to the proposed sale; we will continue to consult to ensure that we have the UAE obligations and to be met before, during and after delivery.” There is a clear, mutual understanding of the steps to be taken. “

A State Department official also told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the Biden administration “hopes we can work on any outstanding issues.”

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