DUBAI / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates have informed the United States it will suspend talks to acquire F-35 fighter jets, a United Arab Emirates official said on Tuesday as part of a $ 23 billion deal that also includes drones and other ammunition.
The sale of 50 Lockheed Martin-made F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates had slowed amid concerns in Washington over Abu Dhabi’s relations with China, including the use of Huawei 5G technology in the country.
“Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions and cost / benefit analysis led to the reassessment,” the UAE official said in a statement to Reuters that confirmed a Wall Street Journal report.
“The United States remains the UAE’s preferred supplier for advanced defense requirements and discussions for the F-35 may be reopened in the future,” the official said, adding that there had been discussions. to “meet the security conditions of mutual defense for the acquisition”.
A person briefed on the negotiations said for several months that the sticking points between the United States and the United Arab Emirates revolved around how the stealth jets can be deployed and the amount of sophisticated F-35 technology the Emiratis have. will be allowed to take advantage. The person asked not to be identified by name or by association with either country.
The United Arab Emirates had signed an agreement to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones, people familiar with the situation told Reuters in January.
Earlier at the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby had said that the US partnership with the United Arab Emirates was more strategic and complex than an arms sale and that Washington had pledged to work with Abu Dhabi to respond to their questions.
“We will always insist, in terms of legal and policy requirements, on a variety of end-use requirements,” Kirby said.
He added that a meeting between US and UAE officials at the Pentagon later this week was to cover general topics, but that he expected the arms sale to take place.
Kirby referred questions about specific arms sales details to the State Department.
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Biden administration has committed to selling the F-35 aircraft along with the MQ-9B and ammunition.
“We hope to be able to resolve all outstanding issues,” said the official.
Lockheed Martin Corp returned requests for comment to the governments of the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates, one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, has long expressed interest in acquiring the F-35 stealth jets and has been promised a chance to purchase them as part of the of a side deal when they agreed to normalize relations with Israel in August 2020.