A $23 billion deal to purchase F-35 aircraft, drones, and other military equipment has been suspended between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The Emirati embassy located in Washington says it will "suspend discussions” with the United States, though recent meetings at the Pentagon between both sides on other matters will proceed as scheduled.
"The U.S. remains UAE's preferred provider for advanced defense requirements and discussions for the F35 may be re-opened in the future," the Embassy said in a statement.
During the administration of former President Donald Trump, 50 F-35s were proposed for sale to the UAE in exchange for a deal that saw the Emiratis formally recognize Israel. In addition to criticism of the UAE and Saudi Arabia over their year-long war which was in Yemen, it also led to a huge humanitarian crisis.
Furthermore, President Joe Biden's administration put the deal on hold after he took office.
In addition to the drones, the deal includes a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
The UAE blames Americans for imposing restrictions on how and where the F-35s can be used, calling it a violation of its sovereignty.
The State Department stated that “the administration remains committed to the proposed sales … even as we continue consultations to ensure that we have a clear, mutual understanding of Emirati obligations and actions before, during and after delivery.”
According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, U.S. requirements for using American-made military equipment are universal and non-negotiable.
The partnership between the UAE and the United States is more strategic and more complex than any single weapon sale, Kirby said.
In the United States, the Emiratis believe their move now is a negotiating tactic to advance the process. An unidentified person who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the UAE letter informing the United States of the suspension was written by a low-level official.
During the U.S. withdrawal earlier this year, the UAE allowed people fleeing Afghanistan to enter the country. The UAE and the United States have long had a working relationship in counterterrorism. The UAE's growing cooperation with China has exacerbated Washington and Abu Dhabi tensions.
Top Emirati diplomats acknowledged that the UAE stopped construction on a Chinese facility at a port in Abu Dhabi that America considered a military base. According to The Wall Street Journal, construction was halted on the facility.
“We took these American concerns into consideration and we stopped the work on the facilities,” the diplomat, Anwar Gargash, told a meeting of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “But our position remains the same, that these facilities were not really military facilities.”
UAE and U.S. discussions were quite frank, he said.