US President Joe Biden has temporarily suspended the sale of fighter jets to the UAE and munitions to Saudi Arabia, pending a review of defense equipment deals previously approved by former President Donald Trump.

On January 20, the UAE signed a $23 billion agreement with the United States to acquire 50 F-35 jets, as well as up to 18 armed drones. Earlier, the US state department gave the go-ahead to sell $290 million in bombs to Saudi Arabia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the decision to put the transactions on hold is “typical at the start of an administration”.

“[This is] to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy, so that’s what we’re doing at this moment,” Blinked was quoted as saying in media reports.

“We very much support the Abraham Accords, we think that Israel normalising relations with its neighbours and other countries in the region is a very positive development and so, we applaud them, and we hope that there may be an opportunity to build on it in the months and years ahead,” Blinken said.

Reacting to the latest development, the UAE Embassy in the United States said it had already expected the new US administration to do a policy review.

“As in previous transitions, the UAE anticipated a review of current policies by the new administration. Specifically, the F-35 package is much more than selling military hardware to a partner,” the UAE Embassy said on Twitter.

However, it pointed out that it will work closely with the Biden administration to come up with a “comprehensive approach” to peace and stability in the Middle East.

The UAE Embassy also highlighted that it has always fought alongside the US, and that through hundreds of joint missions and participation in six US-led Coalition efforts, it has learned that “the key to military coordination is interoperability”.

The US Senate had voted to approve the defense equipment sales to the UAE last December 2020. In a previous statement, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba said the acquisition will improve the “US-UAE interoperability” and allow the two countries “to be more effective together”.

“It makes us all safer. Open, tolerant and future oriented, the UAE is charting anew positive path for the Middle East. We are committed to regional de-escalation and dialogue,” he said.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)

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