Amid talks with Israel, pursuit of UAE stealth planes rumbles in background

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Al DHAFRA Air Base, Abu Dhabi (Reuters) – Amid the historic normalization negotiations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, U.S. officials spent a morning at an Abu Dhabi air base housing U.S. stealth jets that l Gulf state hopes to buy despite Israeli objections.

US President Jared Kushner and US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien pose for a group photo with United Arab Emirates Air Force Major General Falah Al Qahtani at Air Force Base Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 1, 2020. REUTERS / Lisa Barrington

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner met with Emirati military officials at the UAE’s Al Dhafra Air Base, where the United States keeps some of its F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets, highlighting years of driving from UAE to get the plane.

Israel, which owns the F-35, objected to any other power in the Middle East getting the plane, citing US laws that it should maintain a military advantage in the region.

Kushner, son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, arrived in the Arab Gulf state on Monday for a two-day trip with an Israeli delegation to meet with UAE officials following their negotiated August 13 deal. by the United States to normalize relations.

The Gulf State, one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, has long expressed interest in acquiring the fighter plane manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), which Israel used in combat.

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said standardization should remove “any obstacle” for the United States to sell the F-35 to the UAE.

A United Arab Emirates official said the visit to the UAE air base, which the United States also uses, near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi was unrelated to the F-35 issue, while another hailed three decades of military cooperation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

“Our relationship has been built on trust and mutual support,” Major General Falah al-Qahtani told reporters. “We are united to fight extremism in all its forms.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that sales of F-35 planes were not part of the deal with the United Arab Emirates, underscoring Israel’s concern not to dilute its access to US weapons systems advanced in the region.

“The Americans recognized it. Our position has not changed, ”Netanyahu said.

He said White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien made it clear to him during a visit to Israel this week that the United States is determined to preserve Israel’s military advantage in this unstable region.

The United States sold the F-35 to allies including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel.

“The issue of the F-35s has been a long-standing demand of the UAE and it is by no means a driver for reaching this agreement,” Jamal Al-Musharakh, head of political planning and defense, told reporters. international cooperation at UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kushner, who visited Bahrain from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, said he hoped another Arab country would normalize relations with Israel within months.

No other Arab state has so far said it plans to follow the UAE. Several have ruled out standardization under current conditions. Only two other Arab states have established full relations with Israel: Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams in Abu Dhabi, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Edited by Mark Heinrich

Our standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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