Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stood firmly behind U.S. efforts to sell advanced weaponry to the United Arab Emirates, while reassuring Israel it was committed to maintaining its qualitative military edge in the Middle East.
Pompeo spoke after meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about a week after the U.S. announced a historic framework to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE. Netanyahu’s diplomatic triumph soured at home once it emerged that the U.S. was exploring selling the Gulf Arab nation the most sophisticated American warplane, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35. He’s publicly opposed the plan.
While standing alongside the Israeli prime minister, Pompeo noted that the U.S. has “a 20-plus year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well.”
“We will now continue to review that process to continue to make sure that we’re delivering them with the equipment that they need,” he said in a statement. “We’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel as well, I’m confident that both of these objectives can be achieved.”
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Netanyahu again denied that normalization with the UAE includes any agreement on providing advanced weaponry. Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said it “wouldn’t be good for Israel” if other countries in the region receive access to the F-35.
The two leaders’ conversation included reassurances from Pompeo that the U.S. would protect Israel’s military advantage under all circumstances, Netanyahu said.
“I have to say simply that this deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal and I don’t know of any arms deal that has been agreed upon. It may be contemplated,” Netanyahu said on Monday. “Our position hasn’t changed.”
Israel’s rapprochement with the UAE has been based largely on a shared distrust of Iran to which the U.S. is also party. Pompeo’s trip to the region follows a failed U.S. attempt to extend an arms embargo on Iran at the United Nations and a subsequent move to snap back international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Pompeo was also set to travel to the UAE, Sudan and Bahrain during his travel abroad through Friday. Israel has set itssights on forging diplomatic ties with Sudan and Bahrain, and Pompeo said he’s hopeful more Arab states will normalize relations.
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