Blinken says US ready to proceed with sale of F-35s to UAE

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives remarks following the final U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. is ready to proceed with a $23 billion sale of F-35 fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates after the middle eastern nation said it would suspend talks.

“We remain prepared to move forward with both if that is what the Emiratis are interested in doing,” Blinken told reporters in Malaysia.

The deal included the UAE purchasing 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, as many as 18 MQ-9B unmanned aerial systems, and air-to-air and air-to-ground projectiles. 

A UAE official told Reuters on Tuesday that the nation would suspend talks over “technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis.”

The official added that the U.S. is still the UAE’s “preferred provider” of the weapons and that discussions “may be reopened in the future.”

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the sale could be impacted by the UAE’s growing ties to China, which sparked concerns that Abu Dhai might allow China to access the technology.

Both US and UAE officials are set to meet at the Pentagon this week, during which the deal is expected to come up. 

Blinken said the Biden administration wanted to make sure that that the US’ commitment to Israel’s military advantage was upheld. Under U.S. law, American is committed to ensuring the advantage, referred to as its “qualitative military edge.”

Israel was initially opposed to the UAE buying the F-35 fighter jets, but in October 2020 signaled that it wouldn’t oppose the deal.

“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 full review of any technologies that are sold or transferred to other partners in the region, including the UAE,” Blinken said.  “But I think that we’re – we continue to be prepared to move forward if the UAE continues to want to pursue both of these systems.”

Tags Antony Blinken F-35 fighter jets UAE

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