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A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II sits on the flight line during pre-Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation on Jan. 23, 2018 (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

The United Arab Emirates’ desire to purchase the F-35 fighter jet is legitimate, a top Emirati official said Thursday, saying the military hardware should be easier to procure now that his country is normalizing ties with Israel.

“This is something on the table,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said during a virtual event hosted by the Atlantic Council. “We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them. The first time we made this request was six years ago.”

“The whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists,” Gargash said, adding that the proposed sale is “not connected” to the recent agreement it reached with Israel.

Last week’s US-brokered deal saw the UAE become the third Arab state to recognize Israel. In exchange for the Jewish state suspending its planned annexation in the West Bank, the two countries have agreed to set up reciprocal embassies and cooperate on a range of issues including technology, tourism and security.

Talk of a potential arms sale grew after an Israeli newspaper reported there was an Israel-approved “secret clause” in the normalization deal that allowed for Washington to sell the Lockheed Martin-produced jets to the UAE.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office pushed back on the report, clarifying that Israel has not consented nor moved on its long-held stance that putting America’s most advanced weapon in the hands of any of its Arab neighbors could drastically alter the region’s power balance.

“Israel did not change its consistent positions against the sale to any country in the Middle East of weapons and defense technologies that could tip the balance,” the premier’s office said in a statement Tuesday.

But on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said an arms sale is “under review.” The UAE would “like to buy F-35s, we’ll see what happens. It’s under review,” he said, noting, “They’ve definitely got the money to pay for it.”

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that US officials gave a classified briefing about the F-35 to the Emirati military as part of the planned sale.

Source: Al Monitor, August 21st, 2020