The United Arab Emirates has cancelled a planned meeting with the United States and Israel over differences on the possible sale of American F-35 fighter jets to the Gulf state opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a report said on Monday.
Last week, US President Donald Trump announced that an agreement is under review for the UAE to buy the fighter jets, and a US defence official hinted that a deal could be reached in six months.
The US has sold the F-35 jet to allies – including South Korea, Japan and Israel – but sales to the Gulf require a deeper review because of American policy for Israel to maintain a military advantage in the Middle East.
According to the US news website, Axios, the UAE shelved a planned meeting with the US and Israel on Friday, after Netanyahu came out publicly to deny knowledge of the proposed arms deal between Washington, DC and Abu Dhabi.
Axios said the Emiratis wanted to send a message, adding that the Gulf state felt that Netanyahu’s statement violated an understanding between them – following their historic announcement on August 13 of the normalisation of diplomatic ties.
“They (UAE) were particularly angry that he (Netanyahu) told members of his Cabinet that he would raise his concerns about the deal with members of Congress,” the report said.
The report added that the F-35 deal is a “top priority” for the UAE, which considers it as linked to the normalisation accord with Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently in the Middle East to promote the agreement between UAE and Israel, which was brokered by officials of the Trump administration.
On Monday, he said the US would ensure Israel retains a military advantage in the region.
“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge. We will continue to honour that,” Pompeo told reporters after a meeting with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu said he had been reassured on the issue by Pompeo, who began his tour in Jerusalem. Pompeo’s regional visit, which is also aimed at building a front against Iran, will take him to Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain.
Pompeo pointed out that Washington had also provided the UAE with military support for more than 20 years, measures he described as needed to stave off shared threats from Iran – also Israel’s regional rival.
“We’re deeply committed to doing that, to achieving that and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel and I’m confident that objective will be achieved,” Pompeo said.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians warned the Trump administration against trying to sideline them in its Middle East diplomatic push.
“Recruiting Arabs to recognise Israel and open embassies does not make Israel a winner,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an interview with Reuters.
“You are putting the whole region in a lose-lose situation because you are designing the road for a forever conflict in the region.”