Sale of F-35, Other 'Elements' to UAE Still 'On the Table', Says U.S. Official

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Israeli and U.S. F-35 drill together over the Dead Sea, August 2020
Israeli and U.S. F-35 drill together over the Dead Sea, August 2020Credit: Israeli Air Force

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday that the sale of F-35 fighter jets and other weapons to the United Arab Emirates is "on the table" and that “incredibly positive conversations going on” between the United States, Israel and UAE.

In an interview with the Emirate's state-run news agency WAM, Ortagus said that the U.S. and UAE have had military and security relations for many years, adding that the former had sold F-16 planes as well as other military aircraft and hardware to the Gulf state in the past.

According to Ortagus, who is accompanying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his Mideast and Africa trip to enlist additional Muslim countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, the relationship between the UAE and U.S. is not new but rather an old and "sophisticated" one that's been ongoing for decades.

She said that the F-35 deal is being discussed between the U.S. and Emirates, and that there are "a lot of discussions about all the various hardware elements, aircraft and other things that are on the table" 

Pompeo left the UAE on Wednesday and is expected to visit soon Oman as well, following visits to Israel, Sudan and Bahrain.

Next week, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son in-law Jared Kushner will also land in the region to visit Israel, the Emirates, Qatar and Morocco to continue efforts to get more Arab and Muslim countries to join the UAE in normalising relations with Israel.

Pompeo said on Monday after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington is committed to preserving Israel's military edge in the Middle East. After their meeting Netanyahu said the sale of F-35 fighter jets was not included in Israel's normalization agreement with the UAE, and that he was not aware of such a deal between the United States and the emirates.

The agreement with the UAE did not include approval by Israel for any arms deal, Netanyahu said, adding that such a deal was perhaps being considered but that his opposition to such a deal had not changed. In any case, said the prime minister, Pompeo had made it clear to him that the U.S. was committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.

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