UAE suspends multibillion-dollar arms deal in growing frustration over US-China standoff

“The United Arab Emirates have informed the United States that they will suspend talks to acquire the F-35,” an Emirati official told CNN. “Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions and cost / benefit analysis led to the reassessment.”

“The United Arab Emirates and the United States were working on an agreement that would address mutual defense security conditions for the acquisition,” the official added. “The United States remains the UAE’s preferred supplier for advanced defense needs and discussions on the F-35 may be reopened in the future.”

The US State Department said the White House remains “committed” to the deal, which was seen as the cornerstone of an August 2020 deal aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel. The sale – which would involve the most advanced US weapons ever transferred to an Arab state – has since been on a collision course, with US politicians raising concerns about the deal.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby also said the United States was ready to work with the United Arab Emirates to address concerns from both countries on Tuesday. “The US partnership with the United Arab Emirates is more strategic and more complex than any arms sale,” Kirby said at a press conference. “We will always insist, in terms of legal and policy requirements, on a variety of end user requirements. This is typical. “

“And these end-user requirements and the protection of US defense equipment are universal, non-negotiable and non-UAE-specific,” he added.

The suspension of the landmark deal comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with the UAE’s de facto leader, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, in the UAE capital. It was the first official visit by an Israeli leader to the Gulf state.

As we recently confirmed at the Dubai Airshow, the Biden-Harris administration remains engaged in the proposed sales of F-35 aircraft, MQ-9Bs and ammunition, although we continue consultations to ensure that we have a clear mutual understanding of the UAE’s obligations and actions before, during and after childbirth, ”a State Department spokesperson said.

The US government has repeatedly pushed the UAE to remove Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co. from its telecommunications network and has claimed the technology could pose a security risk to its weapon systems.

“The F-35 is the crown jewel of the United States, of our air force, and therefore we must be able to protect the technological security of all of our partners,” Deputy Secretary of State told CNN. US Deputy State Regional Security Mira Resnick. Becky Anderson last week, answering a question about whether the UAE should choose between Huawei and the F-35s.

“These are the conversations we are having with the Emiratis about the choices they can make now to make sure they can be part of the F-35 program,” Resnick added.

But UAE officials have been skeptical of US claims about the potential security breach and have expressed concern of being caught in a “new cold war” between a major trading partner. plan and its main strategic ally. “What worries us is this fine line between acute competition (between China and the United States) and a new cold war,” Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, said last week. , in a speech at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. . “Because I think we, as a small state, will be negatively affected by this, but in no way will we have the capacity to affect this competition, even positively.”

In those remarks, Gargash also confirmed reports that the UAE had shut down a Chinese facility over US suspicions that it was being used for military purposes, despite the UAE’s disagreement with the characterization of the site by the United Arab Emirates. United States. “The UAE’s point of view was that these certain facilities could in no way be interpreted as military facilities,” Gargash said. “However, the United States had their concerns and we took those concerns into consideration and halted work on these facilities.”

“But our position remains the same. That these installations were not really military installations,” he added. “But then again, you had the concerns of your main ally, and I think it would be foolish of you not to respond to the concerns of your ally.”

A United Arab Emirates military delegation is due to visit the Pentagon tomorrow, according to Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. While the meeting isn’t supposed to be about the sale of an F-35, it will almost certainly happen, he said.

“The meeting was not designed to talk about a military sale,” he said. “It was designed to speak to the broad scope of our defense relationship with the UAE. But I predict that this would be something that we would take the opportunity to speak with them about their concerns, as well as to share our concerns about selling it. “

Mostafa Salem and Celine Alkhaldi reported from Abu Dhabi. Jennifer Hansler and Oren Liebermann reported from Washington. Tamara Qiblawi wrote from London.

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