UAE suspends negotiations with the US on the purchase of F-35 fighter jets

The United Arab Emirates has suspended negotiations with the United States over a $23 billion deal to buy 50 F-35 fighter jets, a sign of friction in the regional nation’s relations. Gulf with Washington.

An UAE official said in a statement that Abu Dhabi had informed Washington that “technical requirements, sovereign operating limitations and cost-benefit analysis have led to a reassessment of “.

The initial sale of the F-35 was agreed to by the Trump administration last year after the UAE signed an agreement to normalize relations with Israel. However, the deal has been closely watched since President Joe Biden took office.

Abu Dhabi has raised concerns about restrictions Washington is seeking to impose on the Gulf nation’s use of F-35 fighter jets. Meanwhile, the Biden administration worries that the UAE’s use of Huawei’s 5G technology increases the risk that sensitive information could be leaked to Beijing.

Washington has been putting pressure on the UAE to reduce its exposure to Chinese telecommunications technology. General Kenneth F McKenzie, commander of US central command, told a webinar this year that he was concerned about the risks of technology transfer. He added that the US was “working hard both within the US and with our UAE partners to ensure the matter is resolved amicably”.

But as the negotiations dragged on, the UAE – a key US ally in the Arab world – became frustrated with US pressure, as it tried to strike a balance between relations with Washington and Washington. China, their biggest trading partner.

Emirati officials have argued that there are few cost-effective alternatives to Huawei’s 5G technology and fear that they will be caught up in a new Cold War between the US and China.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the decision to suspend the negotiations for the first time came just over a week after the UAE signed a 17 billion euro contract with France to buy 80 Rafale jets and 12 helicopters. Caracal helicopter manufactured by Dassault Aviation and Airbus groups of France.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto leader of the UAE, has established an increasingly deep relationship with French president Emmanuel Macron, especially on security matters .

At the same time, there is growing uncertainty about the United States’ perception of decoupling from the region and its commitment to Arab partners, concerns exacerbated by the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. .

A person briefed on the UAE position said Abu Dhabi is confident that issues related to Washington’s concerns about Huawei’s 5G can be resolved. But the key issue is whether the US puts limits on how and when the UAE can use the F-35.

“From Emiratis’s point of view, they want to have the strongest relationship possible with the US,” the person said. “The question is, is the US ready to respond and commit? The UAE wants to have a strong commitment to shared security in the region.”

Emirati officials said both countries “are working to reach an understanding that will resolve the mutual defense security conditions for the acquisition”. The US remains the UAE’s preferred supplier for advanced defense requirements, and discussions on the F-35 could be reopened in the future, the official said.

In a statement, the US said: “The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to the sale of the proposed F-35s, MQ-9Bs, and munitions even as we continue to consult to ensure that they are I have a clear mutual understanding of Emirati. obligations and actions before, during and after delivery. We hope that we can resolve any outstanding issues, and we look forward to the US-UAE Joint Military Dialogue later this week.”

Additional reporting by Aime Williams in Washington

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