(Washington) The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday threatened to cancel purchases of F-35 fighter jets from the United States, protesting the terms it said were too harsh amid American distrust of China.
Updated on Dec 14, 2021
However, the two countries said they hoped to settle their disagreements.
“The Emirates have informed the United States that they will suspend talks” to acquire the fifty F-35s, an Emirati official said.
“Technical requirements, government operating restrictions and cost-benefit analysis have led to this re-evaluation,” he added.
The alternative: the French Rafales
The announcement comes after the Emirates signed an agreement for a record €14 billion ($15.8 billion) order for 80 French Rafale fighter jets during a visit by President Emmanuel Macron in early December, showing the Gulf state is over alternatives available.
But the United States remains “the Emirates’ preferred supplier” of advanced equipment, according to the Emirati official, and despite the announced suspension of F-35 talks, an Emirati delegation is visiting Washington for talks this week.
“We hope to be able to resolve all outstanding issues,” said a spokesman for the State Department.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said it’s common practice to discuss requirements before any technology transfer.
These requirements “and the protection of US defense equipment are universal, non-negotiable and not specific to the Emirates,” he said.
Elected officials from Mr Biden’s Democratic Party had tried in vain to block the sale, notably citing the Emirates’ involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive in Yemen.
China increasingly present
American officials are also increasingly concerned about China’s involvement with this American ally, particularly at work at a port near the capital, Abu Dhabi.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States is insisting on certain conditions to ensure the F-35s are not vulnerable to Chinese espionage.
The Emirates have long wanted to acquire F-35 and MQ-9 “Reaper” drones, but Israel opposed it in order to maintain its technological superiority. The Jewish state has received assurances from the United States in this regard.
The sale, approved in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s mandate following the agreement to normalize relations between the Emirates and Israel, involves 50 F-35 stealth fighters, 18 MQ-9 armed drones, as well as air-to-air missiles and Air Floor , for an amount of $23 billion.