The United Arab Emirates has said a request to buy US F-35 warplanes has been on the table since before it agreed to normalize ties with Israel, despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s vocal opposition to any such sales to the Gulf state.
The Abraham Accord agreement should dispel “any grain of doubt” over the UAE buying stealth F-35 fighter jets from the US, the Gulf state’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Tuesday.
The UAE seeks to modernize its military, and “our request for the F-35 and other systems pre-dates this [normalization] agreement,” he said. The country’s existing F-16 jets are now almost two decades old, and it’s time to renew them, Reuters quoted the minister as saying. The UAE and Gulf neighbor Bahrain are set to sign normalization accords with Israel at the White House on Tuesday, days after US President Donald Trump announced the move.
However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government would oppose any F-35 warplane sales by the US to the UAE. “The peace agreement with the UAE does not include any clauses on the matter, and the US clarified to Israel that it will always safeguard Israel’s qualitative edge,” he said back in August.
Trump told Fox News on Tuesday that he would have no issue selling the fighter jets to the UAE. He added that he would also be willing to sell the same weapons systems sold to Israel to other countries in the Middle East, as it would be good for the US and for American jobs.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, said after a meeting with Netanyahu in late August that Washington is committed to preserving Israel’s military edge in the Middle East, even under future arms deals with other states. After their meeting, Netanyahu said he was not aware of any F-35 deal between the US and the UAE.
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