UAE suspends talks with US over buy of F-35 fighter jets

The United Arab Emirates has suspended talks with the US over its $23bn deal to purchase as much as 50 F-35 fighter jets and different weapons in an indication of friction within the Gulf state’s relations with Washington.

An Emirati official mentioned Abu Dhabi had knowledgeable the US that “technical necessities, sovereign operational restrictions and cost-benefit evaluation led to the reassessment”.

The sale of the F-35s was initially agreed final yr by the Trump administration after the UAE signed an accord to normalise relations with Israel. However the deal has come underneath mounting scrutiny since President Joe Biden took workplace.

Abu Dhabi has raised considerations concerning the restrictions Washington is in search of to impose on the Gulf state’s use of the F-35 warplanes. The Biden administration in the meantime worries that the UAE’s use of Huawei 5G expertise raises the chance that delicate data may very well be leaked to Beijing.

Washington has put strain on the UAE to scale back its publicity to Chinese language telecoms expertise. Common Kenneth F McKenzie, commander of the US central command, mentioned this yr that he was involved concerning the danger of expertise switch, including that the US was “working laborious each internally inside the US and with our UAE companions to make sure that’s resolved satisfactorily”.

However because the talks have dragged on, the UAE — a essential US ally within the Arab world — has develop into annoyed with the strain because it tries to strike a steadiness in its relations with Washington and Beijing, its largest commerce associate.

Emirati officers have argued that there are few cost-effective alternate options to Huawei’s 5G expertise and are frightened about being drawn into a brand new chilly conflict between the US and China.

The choice to droop the talks, first reported by the Wall Avenue Journal, comes simply over every week after the UAE sealed a €17bn-plus cope with France to purchase 80 Rafale jets and 12 Caracal helicopters manufactured by French teams Dassault Aviation and Airbus.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and the UAE’s de facto chief, has struck up a deepening relationship with French president Emmanuel Macron, notably on safety issues.

On the similar time, there’s rising unease concerning the perceived US disengagement from the area and its dedication to its Arab companions, a priority exacerbated by the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

An individual briefed on the UAE place mentioned Abu Dhabi was assured that the problems associated to Washington’s considerations over Huawei’s 5G may very well be resolved. However the essential concern was whether or not the US would put limits on how and when the UAE might use the F-35s.

“From the Emiratis perspective, they need the strongest potential relations with the US,” the particular person mentioned. “The query is, is the US able to reciprocate and be dedicated? The UAE desires a powerful dedication on mutual safety within the area.”

The Emirati official mentioned each states “had been working towards an understanding that might handle mutual defence safety circumstances for the acquisition”.

“The US stays the UAE’s most well-liked supplier for superior defence necessities and discussions for the F-35 could also be reopened sooner or later,” the official mentioned.

In an announcement, the US mentioned: “The Biden-Harris administration stays dedicated to the proposed gross sales of F-35 plane, the MQ-9B, and munitions at the same time as we proceed consultations to make sure that we have now a transparent, mutual understanding of Emirati obligations and actions earlier than, throughout, and after supply. We’re hopeful that we are able to work via any excellent points, and we stay up for the US-UAE Joint Army Dialogue later this week.”

Extra reporting by Aime Williams in Washington

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