DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates wants to modernise its military and a request for U.S. F-35 warplanes has been on the table since before a normalisation deal with Israel, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Tuesday.
The agreement, known as the Abraham Accord, should dispel “any grain of doubt” on why the Gulf state should get stealth F-35 fighter jets from the United States, Gargash told reporters.
“The UAE seeks like any country that takes its military seriously, to modernize its military, always, so our request for the F35 and other systems pre-dates this agreement,” he said.
The UAE’s existing F-16 jets are now almost two decades old and it is time to renew them, he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government would oppose any U.S. F-35 warplane sales to the UAE, despite forging relations with the Gulf power. U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday told Fox News he would have no problem selling the planes to the UAE.
The UAE and Gulf neighbour Bahrain are set to sign normalisation accords with Israel at a White House ceremony on Tuesday.
Gargash said the country’s decision to normalise ties broke a “psychological barrier” and is the way forward for the region, giving it more leverage.
He said Israel suspending its planned annexation of Palestinian land would stop the two-state solution being undermined and that the United States’ mediator role was assurance that further annexation would be suspended.
The Emirati minister said it was not the time to revise the Arab Peace Initiative, and that it remains the cornerstone of the UAE’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.
A strategic breakthrough is needed, he said, but “it will not happen overnight”.
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan
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