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F-35 fighter jet Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has expressed its gratitude to the United States Senate voting for a $23 billion (Dh84.59 billion) arms sale to UAE that includes up to 50 F-35 fighter jets, as many as 18 Reaper drones and other precision weapons, saying that the decision will enable the UAE to take on more of the burden for collective security as it charts a new path for the Middle East.

“The UAE deeply appreciates the consideration of all Senators in today’s vote. Continued US support enable the UAE to take on more of the burden for our collective security — ours, yours and our partners,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the US.

The US Senate on Wednesday rejected efforts to block the sale of munitions worth $23 billion to the UAE, overcoming concerns about sending more weapons to Gulf Arab nations. The pair of votes, forced by a bipartisan group of senators, highlighted growing unease in US Congress over the issue. However, in a tactical victory for US President Donald Trump, the majority voted against a blockade, endorsing his last-minute push to send armed drones and stealth fighter jets to the UAE.

‘More tolerant and future-oriented’

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Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the US. Image Credit: WAM

Al Otaiba added: “It improves US-UAE interoperability and allows us to be more effective together. It makes us all safer, be more tolerant and future-oriented. The UAE is charting a new positive path for the Middle East. We are committed to regional de-escalation and dialogue.”

Al Otaiba stressed that the UAE “looks forward to deepening our 49-year relationship with the US as we work together on pressing challenges like global health, climate, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and regional conflicts”.

Senator Roy Blunt, Republican from Missouri, said the move “would continue the 20 years of growth in our relationship, working side by side against common concerns and common enemies”.

Senator Blunt added: “The UAE has consistently been willing to stand with us in at least six long-term deployments. They come, they stay, they are side by side with us in the field.”

The Trump administration formally notified the Congress last month of the intended $23 billion arms sale to UAE. That push, championed by Jared Kushner, adviser to the US president, came as he and the other officials in the Trump administration completed the Abraham Accords — a joint agreement in which the UAE became the third Arab nation to recognise Israel.

Broader diplomatic initiative

A vote to block the sale of F-35 jets to UAE failed in a 49-47 verdict. A separate vote to block the sale of the drones fell through in a 50-46 result, with Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, both Democrats, voting in favour of the drone package. Kelly, though, had opposed the F-35 sale to UAE.

Trump administration officials have insisted that the arms sale — particularly the transfer of the coveted F-35 fighter jets — is an acknowledgement of the broader diplomatic initiatives between the two nations. In keeping with that, Kushner briefed Senate Republicans on Tuesday on his work with the UAE, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

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‘Shared interests’

Emirati diplomats, led by Ambassador Al Otaiba, lobbied senators in the days leading up to the vote, running a rapid-response Twitter feed as lawmakers debated the provisions of the deal and argued that the sale “is critical to protecting our shared interests against common adversaries”.

“The UAE has purchased & operated some of the most advanced US defense systems including F-16s, Patriot & THAAD. @usairforce F-35 squadrons are based in the UAE,” embassy officials wrote. “The UAE has never compromised or shared this technology with an adversary or without US knowledge & approval.”