Biden to UAE crown prince: Israel normalization of ‘strategic importance’

In first call with Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan since taking office, US president discusses regional challenges, nuclear threat from Iran and Middle East peace

US President Joe Biden in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan on Tuesday, in his first call with the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates since entering the White House in January.

During the call, Biden hailed the Trump-era normalization of ties between Israel and the United Aarab Emirates, according to a White House statement.

“They discussed regional and global challenges, including Afghanistan, the nuclear and regional dimensions of the threat posed by Iran, as well as the common quest for de-escalation and peace in the Middle Peace,” the statement said.

“In that regard, the president underlined the strategic importance of the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. He expressed his full support for strengthening and expanding these arrangements,” the White House said.

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a meeting at the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The Biden administration has told Congress it will move ahead with a massive arms deal to the UAE, including advanced F-35 aircraft, that was signed in the wake of Israel’s normalization deal with the Gulf nation, congressional aides told Reuters last month.

In January, the new administration put a temporary hold on several major foreign arms sales initiated by former US president Donald Trump, including the deal to provide 50 F-35 advanced fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, which was fast-tracked by Washington after Abu Dhabi agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

A State Department spokesperson told Reuters that estimated delivery dates to the UAE were for after 2025.

In addition to the massive $23 billion transfer of stealth F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates, another deal being paused is a planned major sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia. Both sales were harshly criticized by Democrats in Congress.

It was not immediately clear if the Saudi deal was also going ahead.

The UAE was the first country to agree to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state under the Abraham Accords, a pact brokered by Trump and signed in Washington on September 2020. Bahrain also signed the accords while Morocco and Sudan later agreed to normalize ties as well.

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