UAE Says It’s Suspending F-35 Talks as U.S. Sticks to Conditions
(Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates said it’s suspending talks with the U.S. on a $23 billion deal to purchase F-35 jets and other weaponry even as a delegation from the Persian Gulf nation prepares for strategic talks Wednesday at the Pentagon.
The developments underscore continued maneuvering over the Biden administration’s pressure for the UAE to remove Huawei Technologies Co. from its telecommunications network over the next four years and take other steps to distance itself from China. It also follows the UAE’s moves to purchase French fighters.
“The UAE has informed the U.S. that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35 as it reassesses the strategic requirements and the costs/benefits of the aircraft,” its embassy in Washington said in a statement Tuesday. “Technological advances, evolving regional dynamics, and new priorities have led to the re-assessment. The UAE may restart discussions after the program review. The UAE and U.S. were working toward an understanding that would address mutual defense security conditions.”
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the two nations will discuss “mutual concerns” in a military dialogue at the Pentagon starting on Wednesday in an effort to “address their and our questions with respect to this sale.”
But he also indicated the U.S. won’t yield on security concerns, saying that “end-use requirements and protections of U.S. defense equipment are universal, non-negotiable and not specific to the UAE.”
The sale to the UAE of 50 F-35s built by Lockheed Martin Corp. was proposed at the end of former President Donald Trump’s administration after the UAE formally recognized Israel. But the Gulf nation’s deepening ties with China are raising national security concerns in Washington.
At the same time, the UAE may have another option: It has agreed to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets from France as part of a 17 billion-euro ($19 billion) deal signed during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the Gulf nation this month.
When the French deal was announced, a UAE defense official said it was “complementary” and “not a substitute” for discussions with the U.S. on the F-35s. Another UAE official said Tuesday the French agreement was a decade in the making and stopped and started at least three times, signaling that there was still time to resolve disagreements over the F-35.
The UAE has backed away from military conflicts in the region like Yemen and Libya, and said earlier this year it would focus on building economic ties in the region and beyond.
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